Blame It on the Drain, by Mat Bradley-Tschirgi
Writer/director Noah Buschel paints a picture of how a person’s life can be changed forever by a clogged toilet in his new romantic comedy Sparrows Dance. Marin Ireland plays a woman in an apartment (literally, that’s what her part is listed as in the credits) who enjoys soaking in hot baths in the morning and slurping up Chinese noodles in the evening. After her vintage toilet starts leaking, she calls Wes; he’s the only plumber in the phonebook who also moonlights as a saxophone player. There’s tension in the air as he tries to flush out the kinks in her plumbing.
Sparrows Dance is a most unusual romantic comedy in that it makes the lead actors look as unattractive as possible. Steeped in realism, shots often drag on for five minutes at a time as the main protagonist sits on the toilet, takes a bath, and tries on a dress. The banter she has with Wes, played by Paul Sparks, is anything but playful. Nearly every line is mumbled. There’s a semblance of a plot as their relationship eventually blossoms into passive aggressive screaming matches, but what’s on display is a character study of a truly disturbed woman trying to be wooed by a nice, if shy, guy.
Agoraphobic and depressed, she never leaves her apartment. Perhaps Buschel is delivering a scathing commentary on how modern technology results in a decline of social graces. She’s only truly interested in Wes when he reveals that he has a website that shows off his saxophone sophistication. She grins at the fuzzy web videos with glee. Marin’s performance as the female lead is interesting and full of nervous tics, but the plot never takes us to a destination worth reaching. Sparks is saddled with a typical hipster role, and he does what he can with it. Although convincing at quoting heartfelt poetry and spouting jazz factoids, his presence is too mellow to leap off the screen.
Considering that the film only follows the exploits of the main couple, there could have been some more moments of romantic swagger on display. Their flirtations are full of fits and starts. While undoubtedly in line with the gritty realism of the cinematography, it makes for a boring movie. Sparrows Dance is a film about nothing. If the only plot you’re working with is a girl falling in love with a guy in the midst of toilet turmoil, the dialogue better be interesting. The conversations are as dreary as the shot compositions; at one point, she compliments Wes with “I went to your website. It’s very good!”
Sparrows Dance is a unique romantic comedy in that it’s asking the viewer to follow around the romantic apartment bound exploits of a pair of withdrawn loners. The characters and the set design feel rustic and authentic, but that just makes the proceedings all the more lifeless. Devoid of snark, Sparrows Dance reveals what happens over the course of a few days in a lonely couple.