Mar 20, 2009

Skills Like This (2009): C+

In its opening act, Skills Like This displays a markedly rebellious attitude that, while chief among its strengths, also highlights the more basic manners in which this likable indie comedy fails to completely get off the ground. Disgusted with his own attempts at writing, Max (Spencer Berger, also the screenwriter) goes out on a limb in a moment of inspiration and robs a local bank in an altogether creative manner that, when all is said and done, leads to a relationship of sorts with Lucy (Kerry Knuppe), the very teller who hands him the money during the stick-up. The natural high that accompanies his newfound talent sees him continue with a small streak of acts suggestive of Robin Hood, proving both inspirational (to those who see it as a bold act of self-definition) and alienating (to those who see it as childish and depraved) to those around him. Insofar as it focuses on Max's strange new hobby, Skills Like This generates an eclectic buzz, one aided by its grungy low-budget feel and do-it-yourself filmmaking ethics, not to mention the almost-genius sight gag that is Max's Q-Tip afro. On the flipside, these elements clash with the paralleling narrative thread of Max's friends and their respective efforts at deflecting apathy, the majority of these scenes playing out like knowing retreads of Office Space and other, better films that seem to have inspired this one. Somewhere between the performer's chemistry and the editing of the final cut, the raw energy purported by their misadventures dissipates into semi-stale mania that feels more planned-out than off-the-cuff. Add to the mix a plot device involving one of Max's hospitalized relatives (less cloying than it is pure filler), and what one finds is a film they want to like far more than they actually do.

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