Walking and Talking (Nicole Holofcener)

Rating: **1/2 (out of ****)

Television has more or less cornered the market on wry observation of everyday life among young adults, which presents a problem for aspiring young screenwriters who have been told repeatedly to write what they know. Walking and Talking, Nicole Holofcener's debut feature, is a highly accomplished rendition of the story being penned by just about everybody in my department at NYU: [age of writer]-year-olds grapple with friendship, romance, sex, career, insecurity, neurosis, pop culture, etc., with equal parts cynical humor and brittle poignancy. Holofcener, a recent Columbia grad (boo! hiss!), somehow got her project funded, and assembled a talented and appealing New York cast to deliver her banter: Catherine Keener (the very patient ingénue in Living in Oblivion), Anne Heche (who I'd never seen before), Liev Schreiber (the best thing about the too-gimmicky Denise Calls Up), Todd Field (Ashley Judd's fella in Ruby in Paradise), and the hilariously geeky Kevin Corrigan (a bright spot in the otherwise execrable Rhythm Thief) The resulting film is reasonably funny, intelligent, accurate, and charming, and it would make two fine episodes of a TV show I might actually stay home to watch. As cinema, however, it's less impressive; its episodic narrative rhythm is clunky and awkward, and Holofcener's purely functional style lacks the visual expressiveness which made last year's Kicking and Screaming (I note a paucity of invention concerning titles in this genre) more than just an extended sitcom episode. Worse, it seems slight, inconsequential -- the story never really builds or enlarges its scope as it progresses, and the conclusion is anticlimactic in a very unsatisfying way. What Walking and Talking is, in short, is a fairly pleasant way to kill about an hour and a half; whether that's sufficient to rouse you from your living room sofa and impel you to hurry to a theater near you is the pertinent question.