The Awkwardness of Friendship
"Old Joy" is the fourth Kelly Reichardt movie I have watched and to be honest it has been the most trying because it doesn't really have a storyline. What is does have is a brief reunion between old friends who head out camping and realise that during the time they have spent apart they have changed to the point that it is now awkward between them. That coupled with Reichardt's laid back direction and the attempt to deliver a slice of real life makes it a very slow movie which seems like it has no purpose. "Old Joy" maybe beautifully shot and Reichardt does a great job of dealing with the awkwardness of the situation but because it sort of aimlessly floats along makes it hard going.
When Kurt (Will Oldham) calls up his old friend Mark (Daniel London) out of blue and invited him to go camping both men are looking forward to the weekend and catching up with some time out of the city. But both men soon come to realise that over the years they have changed as Mark is settled and expecting his first child whilst Kurt is living an almost hippyish lifestyle making things awkward between them.
So as already mentioned "Old Joy" doesn't have a storyline in the traditional sense, instead what we get is a slice of life. That slice of life is Kurt and Mark going camping and when Mark gets the call from Kurt he is excited by the thought of spending time with his old friend. But what we witness is the reality when old friends come together and have gone down different paths in life to the point where they have little in common.
What that means is we get a lot of awkward silences as they have nothing really to talk about other than the occasional mention of the old times and friends. And when each speaks about where there life is now with Mark expecting his first child whilst Kurt leading an almost hippyish existence neither is completely interested in what each other is doing. The most dramatic all of this gets is when they can't find the place they plan to go camping.
Now the things is that Reichardt has created a good looking movie, the camera work is crisp, the awkwardness of the situation and the aspects of real life all shine through especially from the performances from Daniel London and Will Oldham. But because "Old Joy" doesn't really have any drama it flows along in an almost aimless manner and you are constantly wondering when something will happen. But that something never comes because real life isn't full of drama yet without it "Old Joy" feels like it is lacking something.
What this all boils down to is that "Old Joy" is a nicely put together movie, the capturing of real life, the awkwardness of a friendship between two men with little in common and the crisp camera work is all good. But because in trying to be very real an element of drama is missing and without that this slice of life ends up feeling aimless.