Chances are, if you're reading this site, you've heard of the word "mumblecore." You may have even used it in a sentence – as in, "What's with all these mumblecore films at SXSW?" It's a term that's been kicking around for a few years, used by anyone but those who would be called mumblecore to describe a brand of American indie film with particular hallmarks: low budgets, improvised dialogue, twentysomethings talking at length about life and sometimes love, and non-professional actors (or those who just act like it). It seems reductive, but you know a mumblecore film when you see it.
Last week, the New York Times poured attention on what was dubbed "Planet Mumblecore" – a socially connected sphere of indie filmmaking where any small budgeted independent film of a certain type seemingly earned the label. A new class of so-called mumblecore filmmakers posed for a cheeky group photo in designer duds ("Eric Kutner, the co-director of 'The Snake,' wears a John Varvatos leather jacket"), including Barry Jenkins (Medicine for Melancholy), Alex Holdridge (In Search of a Midnight Kiss), Jay Duplass (The Puffy Chair), and Adam Goldstein (The Snake). Fine, fine. Independent filmmakers all.
But halfway down the page came the really interesting stuff. The movement's brightest stars – Joe Swanberg, Greta Gerwig, and Andrew Bujalski – declined to participate in the mumblecore tea party. Why?