Louder Than Bombs (2016)

Life’s just full of sex and sadness, isn’t it?

Ever since the death of the patriarch (Isabelle Huppert), the Reed family hasn’t been doing too well. Even though the oldest son, Jonah (Jesse Eisenberg), has just recently become a dad, he still feels disconnected from the world around him, as well as what’s expected of him as a person. Then, there’s Gene (Gabriel Byrne), who doesn’t quite know what he wants to do with his life. Now that his wife is dead, he’s just trying to move on and in by doing so, he strikes up a relationship with a local school teacher (Amy Ryan). However, this also causes more tension between him and his youngest son, Conrad (Devin Druid). Conrad, for one, is really going through some growing pains as he not only just sits around in his room, playing video-games all day and night, but can’t seem to communicate with the rest of the world around him. All of these people, despite feeling a great deal of sadness, are going to have to suck it up and move on if they’re ever going to keep their late family-member’s legacy alive and well, but that’s a lot easier said then done, in most occasions.

Jesse's happy.
Jesse’s happy.

Louder Than Bombs is not the kind of movie I expected from Joachim Trier, for better and for worse. For better, it’s the kind of movie that I expected to be sad, depressing and absolutely drowning in its own misery, however, I got something just a tad bit different. For one, Trier doesn’t wallow in any sort of sadness, as much as he uses it as a front to explore more interesting ideas and avenues about life and most especially, these few characters. Though these characters aren’t the most pathetic bunch ever created for a screen, they all still seem somewhat clinically depressed, however, Trier doesn’t want to harp on it too much.

And because of that, he gets some great moments out of this already solid cast.

Eisenberg is solid as Jonah, the one who is supposed to have it all in life and actually does, yet, doesn’t know if that’s what he wants after all; Devin Druid, who played a younger version of Louis C.K. on Louie, does a good as the youngest pup of the clinic, Conrad, who you want to hate because he’s so angsty and annoying, but by the same token, a lot of the way he acts and the things that he says do ring true for any of us who have gone through those awkward stages in our lives where we’re just trying to make sense of what we’ve got in the world; Isabelle Huppert doesn’t get many opportunities to show up, what with her character being dead and all, but she makes the best of what she’s got; and Gabriel Byrne, honestly, just made me want to give him a hug the whole entire time. Sure, he wears that frown on his face throughout a good portion of the movie, but the fact that his character is at least trying to be somewhat happy makes him compelling to watch.

However, a good cast doesn’t always make your movie great. Especially when it’s as messy and uneven as Louder Than Bombs can be, which is unfortunate, because Trier has proven that he’s a lot better before.

For instance, Louder Than Bombs feels a whole lot more pretentious than I expected it to be, which, after awhile, started to get in the way of what could have been a very affecting story. Due to the fact that Trier likes to put all of these character’s focuses into play at least once or twice during the movie, sometimes, it can tend to feel a tad overcrowded and weird. An example of this could be whenever we are in Conrad’s head and mind, and all of a sudden, the movie takes a fantastical tone, where all of a sudden, he can control things with his mind. I get what Trier is trying to go for here, but it doesn’t quite work.

Isabelle is pleased.
Isabelle is pleased.

Which is a shame because there’s some really good character stuff here, too. Trier does a nice job of giving us a sense about each and everyone of these characters, why they’re so sad, and what it is that they’ve got going for them. However, the writing’s not always there; sometimes, it can feel like these characters are a bit too whiny and mopey for their own good, whereas at other times, it seems like they aren’t emotional enough. It’s an odd twist and turn that kept me questioning just what Trier was going for here and made me wonder if his voice got lost in translation somewhere.

It shouldn’t have anything to do with the fact that this is his English-language debut, but for some reason, I can’t help thinking that’s what happened here.

However, there are worse ways to debut. Trier doesn’t try to go too big or ambitious for this story, but instead, downplay it a whole lot. Because of this, there’s a nice feeling throughout the film where we feel like we’re drawn closer to these characters, as well as this family-unit. This makes sense, cause, after all, they’re the meat and bones of the story and without them being compelling, the rest of the movie would just fall.

Thankfully, it doesn’t, but hey, color me a tad disappointed. Maybe that’s my fault.

Consensus: A solid cast elevates Louder Than Bombs to being more than just another sad, somewhat pretentious indie-flick, even if the good intentions are there to be found.

6 / 10

And Gabriel is, well, yes, sad.
And Gabriel is, well, yes, sad.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

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