By Phil Hall | July 13, 2005

“With Nobody,” the feature film directing debut from novelist Michael Joshua (“Being 2000”) is a small, quirky and refreshing comedy which takes a familiar subject (twentysomethings having premature midlife crises) and spins it into an entertaining light comedy.

The film actually covers two simultaneous stories. Adam (Michael Thompson, in a wonderfully real performance) has no job, no girlfriend and no direction in his life. His best friend Mark is engaged to a wonderful girl named Gretchen (Andrea Rude, another fine performance measuring angst and impatience), but she is irked by Mark’s seeming indifference to her feelings.

Parallel to this is Jenna (Amanda Bernacchi), who whines such observations as “I can’t believe I’m 27 years old and still single!” Jenna is frustrated by her inability to find Mr. Right, so she places an advertisement in the classifieds of a weekly newspaper. She figures that if she doesn’t meet the man of her dreams, she’ll at least get a free meal from those responding to the advertisement. She gets the free meals, but it is amazing she doesn’t get indigestion in the process: the men she attracts range from the sleazy to the stupid to the ultra-sleazy to the ultra-stupid. Jenna suffers these fools none too gladly. Adam also decides to try the classifieds for a soulmate. But “With Nobody” avoids the obvious cute boy-meets-girl storyline with Jenna and Adam. In fact, their parallel stories overlap in an unexpected and genuinely real manner.

“With Nobody” was clearly shot on a small budget and sometimes that is too obvious: several sequences are often anchored in a single room and framed in a single shot, in which the characters engage in uncommonly long conversations. But the film is never stagnant and filmmaker Joshua has a great ear for dialogue. Indeed, this is the rare indie film where the characters sound like real people rather than characters from a bad novel. It is also the rarest of rare films: a movie which gives depth and soul to young people who have become too aimless too soon in their lives.

The film’s highlight is clearly the inventive montage of Jenna’s very bad dates. This sequence is brilliantly cast and wonderfully edited, and it can symbolize every woman’s worst nightmare. One of Jenna’s dates is a space cadet who claims to work for NASA, but he never gets around to saying just what he does for the aerospace agency. Another guy is an oily guido who would embarrass Tony Soprano and his clan; this guy insists that Jenna wants to ride in his Porsche, despite her polite protests that such an activity is the furthest thing from her mind. And yet another, empowered with the prospect of being with a woman, asks Jenna: “What you think about a little bit of me in you?” When she barely acknowledges his request, he rephrases it in a less tactless manner.

A small film like “With Nobody” can be easy to overlook, but to skip by it is to skip by a small gem.

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