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101 Reykjavík

Proof that the slacker aesthetic is not limited to disaffected young Americans, writer-director Baltasar Kormákur's bemused screwball comedy 101 Reykjavík has the same underachieving charm as its protagonist, a twentysomething layabout with no prospects for the future. Played with a perpetually gaunt face by Hilmir Snaer Gudnason, he shares a cramped apartment with his mother (Hanna María Karlsdóttir), leaving only to collect unemployment checks or get sloshed at a crowded bar down the street. Living in what he describes as a ghost town "where even the ghosts are bored," Gudnason has a girlfriend (Thrúdur Vilhjálmsdóttir), but he's just as content getting off on exercise videos and Internet porn, which demand nothing from him in return. But his life takes a dramatic turn when his mother's friend, a fiery Flamenco instructor played by Pedro Almodóvar regular Victoria Abril, comes to stay with them indefinitely, complicating an arrangement that already borders on Oedipal. After the two have a regrettable drunken fling on New Year's Eve, the situation gets worse as his mother comes out as Abril's lesbian lover and Abril announces her subsequent pregnancy, making Gudnason the prospective father and half-brother. A sly, affectionate cousin to American films like High Fidelity, 101 Reykjavík makes a similarly reluctant call for its hero to escape his childish routines and take some responsibility in his life. But, like Gudnason, Kormákur seems happier when he's hanging out in a comfortable rut, peppering the early scenes with wry observations about a man whose idea of social protest is to plug parking meters to keep the city from making money off tickets. Riding a propulsive techno score by Blur's Damon Albarn and The Sugarcubes' Einar Orn Benediktsson, 101 Reykjavík plays as if it secretly wants to be about nothing but the sum of its meandering comic episodes. When heavier circumstances shake it out of its pleasant stupor, the film doesn't function as smoothly, putting up a half-hearted resistance to the screwball mechanizations of its plot. Once he's painted himself into a corner, Kormákur has no other choice but to cough up an obligatory message about growing up, though he doesn't endorse it with any real conviction. Agreeably slight and inconsequential, 101 Reykjavík would be an unqualified success if it were even slighter and less consequential.