It seems feasible. It seems like it could be pulled off for a relatively low cost. It’s a seductive thought that has led innumerable amounts of indie filmmakers into irreparable demise. The walking and talking indie comedy-drama. Despite the apparent ease with which one could make this type of film on the cheap, it’s actually resoundingly difficult to pull off. Unless the work is full of extremely witty banter and dynamic performances, it’ll need some bravado behind the camera to elevate the work. If the film has neither of those three things, it falls in the ether along with countless other walking and talking indies. Sadly, Growing Up and Other Lies falls into the latter category.
The writing and directing team of Darren Grodsky and Danny Jacobs fail to find anything new to say in Growing Up and Other Lies, leaving the film an uncomfortable assemblage of conventional, uninteresting drama and mildly amusing banter. In the most basic terms, Growing Up and Other Lies tells the story of a group of friends who decide to travel 260 blocks across New York City. Along the way they hash out past feuds but wind up learning profound life lessons about themselves and their closest friends, love, the past, and, of course, growing up. Cue up the power pop finale.
Anyways, the cast of characters is emblematic of the film’s overarching familiarity. There’s Jake (Josh Lawson), the struggling artist who is still in love with his ex-girlfriend but is leaving the city to help his father in Ohio; Rocks (Adam Brody), a teacher who is engaged to his pregnant girlfriend, but he definitely has his doubts about commitment; Billy (co-director Danny Jacobs), the workaholic lawyer who is skipping work to be with his friends, and Gunderson (Wyatt Cenac), the endlessly sarcastic anarchist of the group. But these are all broad stroke characters that function just as their designed, as if they were all ripped from the pages of a second-rate book on screenwriting. There’s no element of unpredictability to any of them. Making matters worse, none of them are particularly endearing, just a collection of solipsistic New Yorkers.
There’s no greater deficiency in Growing Up and Other Lies than the fact that the film has nothing new or interesting to say about growing up in the modern era. It sticks to the obvious statements about the uselessness of trying to recapture a faded a love or overcoming your fears of commitment to become an adult. Of all the familiar messaging within the film, of course, the most clichéd is the friendship conquers all. Once again, cue the power pop finale.
The biggest tragedy of Growing Up and Other Lies is that there’s nothing new or fresh here, just a rehashing of the worst indie film tendencies. It confuses mild amusement for wit and assumes that we care about the characters without giving us any reason to. Much in the same way that Jake has to come to terms with accidentally copying another artists’ work, Grodsky and Jacobs have to come to terms with the fact that they’ve accidentally copied every regrettable indie film trope. Now we can cue that power pop finale.