If you’re like me and ever wondered who the voices of every adult in every “Peanuts” cartoon was, go see the film “Finally, Lillian and Dan” and you may have your answer. In the most mumble-spoken movie I’ve ever seen, I not only might have found an answer for my lifelong “Peanuts” question but I also found a boundary to another question I get asked about my affinity for the “mumblecore” movies. People constantly wonder, “how can you stand those movies when it’s just a bunch of people talking about nothing!?” And when that happens I can usually explain that I get a feeling or emotion from quieter fare that features human interaction and reaction and I find myself relating to them through something inside my mind. However “Finally, Lillian and Dan” just asked too much of me and I found myself completely tuned out and turned off by the films irksome nature.
The title characters in the film are the type of people that are impossible to know. It’s as if they’re among us but their minds are stationed on another planet and the thoughts and comments they make seem phoned in from Mars. Lillian (Akers) is a sweet enough girl who works hard at her office and spends evenings at home with her grandma (Quinn). They both enjoy singing, dancing and pudding in a cup. Dan (Kean) on the other hand is creepy. He mindlessly wanders around chain smoking cigarettes and dropping the butts in a small metal can he carries. One day he sees Lillian in the checkout line at a Whole Foods and falls in love. Rather than say anything, he instead hangs out at Whole Foods for days on end waiting for his date to show up again. She eventually does and rather than speak to her, Dan finds another way to find out where she lives and he pops in.
Better titled “Love in the Time of Aspergers,” “Finally, Lillian and Dan” treads lightly as the cinéma-vérité style seeks to get us closer to their budding relationship. But here’s the problem: both of these people are irritating and not in a fun, quirky way that brings you closer to them. I just didn’t care if they dated, eloped, made cupcakes or got locked up. I found nothing endearing, funny or baseline interesting in any character and the movie just felt like a chore.
I did like the bleak color palette director Mike Gibisser worked from and somewhere inside of me I believe lead actors Gretchen Akers and Jason Kean have talent and followed their assignments here perfectly. But the intentionally screwy sound design in which objects like a coffee maker or fan and movements like a plastic spoon scraping ice cream from a cup are intentionally louder than the dialogue being spoken just wore me down scene by scene. When the two pseudo-quirky lovers finally have a quiet conversation what they say just didn’t matter to me.
While I’m glad I now know where my level of interest wanes in terms of quiet, talky films, I almost feel as if “Finally, Lillian and Dan” was a sort of cinematic challenge or stress-test along the lines of a Lars von Trier film. But if so, I wasn’t up for the challenge.