Creative Nonfiction (2009)


Creative Nonfiction Storyline

College student Ella is completely focused on her ambiguously romantic relationship with her dorm-mate, Chris. She is so consumed by trying to understand his behavior that she’s neglecting the screenplay she is supposed to write in order to graduate. When she does sit down to work on the script, her increasingly awkward social life bleeds onto the page and her work begins to express her true feelings about her own situation.—anonymous

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Creative Nonfiction Movie Reviews

I liked it

I loved Creative Nonfiction, this is the type of film people should look at in terms of production cost. When you’re starting out in film you have to do a lot with nothing, and that is exactly what Lena does. You can see the raw talent that Lena possesses with her acting and dialogue. I think what makes the film so effective is that, as the viewer, I felt like I was prying into Ella’s life. It’s almost like going through someone’s phone and digging through all their inner-most personal conversations and pictures. The whole movie was like a diary, and I think people are interested in that. Whenever we overhear a conversation about girls talking about their sex lives, you sort of want to linger around and overhear, because it’s interesting. Creative Nonfiction is just that, it’s a personal diary of a college woman’s life.

The objective, hand-held camera-work works great, still photography would have made the scenes monotonous, and it would have played out within the first 15 minutes. It’s an impressive debut by the very young Lena Dunham.

It’s great

The first time I went to watch this my spoiled brain stopped it after 10 minutes because it was not high cost production. The second time I loved it, it explored a lot of cringe moments between people who are trying to, or might, sleep together. Although there are some similar premises and characters to Dunham’s work GIRLS this work reached more toward the existential aspects of the shared moments. I think it should score higher and also it didn’t seem long enough, I could have watched for twice as long once I got into it. Initially I had to adjust to the acting and the camera style. In the end it’s differences added to it’s charm.

Not the worst by any means, but not good

Lena Dunham’s Creative Nonfiction should’ve never seen the light of day. It’s a film made by college students with a production budget that is probably as much as the amount of money you currently have in your wallet. If you look at it like a movie made to get a hold as to what on earth this wild thing called “filmmaking” is, it’s fine. But by most other metrics, it doesn’t work.

Firstly, it’s extremely poorly made. Obviously, considering the nonexistent production budget, it’s kind of hard to count this against the film. But there are some points where the quality of the film is not so much because of the money behind the film, but the apparent laziness of the filmmakers. For example, in a party scene early in the film, the shadow of a boom mic is so blatantly visible it’s hard not to notice it. Even worse is that a dialogue exchange later in the scene is rendered almost entirely incoherent thanks to the loud talking of background characters. Moments like these are present throughout the movie, and it’s more than a little obnoxious.

Second, the acting isn’t horrible, but a few of the actors/actresses do deliver extremely lackluster performances. Take Ella’s (Dunham’s character) friend in the film: every word that comes out of her mouth is incredibly unnatural, especially during a laundry scene. Once again, it’s kind of hard to entirely blame the film for this (I mean, there can’t be that many college actresses available), but it still detracts from the movie.

Finally, and most egregiously, there is next to no plot. The film sort of shifts around aimlessly with no real point or goal. I guess the idea is to create a movie to reflect the real experience of a college student, but the film also tries to incorporate elements that only add to the film thematically (at least in theory). The film dawdles and dawdles and can never really decide on where or what it wants to do. Should it be about a college student’s increasing fascination with her roommate, ultimately leading to her screenplay becoming pretty much just about him? According to the IMDB plot description, that’s what it’s about, but nothing in the film itself actually even remotely resembles that. If anything, the exact opposite happens: Ella writes about a woman losing her virginity to a nice guy but having to leave him, and a similar occurence happens later in the movie to Ella. Well is it about a college student’s screenplay overtaking her life so much that it bleeds into her real life? Again, a cool concept, but aside from the virginity thing nothing in the film is related to that. In practice, Creative Nonfiction follows a college film student trying to get with her roommate, and then it’s about her friendship with a random lady, and then it’s about her losing her virgnity. Oh, and there’s righting a screenplay about a sexual abuse victim in there, too. To an extent, I can forgive some production laziness and some poor acting. But I can’t forgive the entire lack of a coherent plot.

There is good present in Creative Nonfiction, though. Some of the dialogue is quite clever: I’ll admit that a line where a teenage girl talks about how a college guy talks unrealistically about sex before casually throwing out that she’s a virgin gave me quite a chuckle. Also, Lena Dunham’s acting is kinda okay. She’s not Oscar-worthy by any means, but she still does pretty well, especially when compared to her costars. Thirdly, the ending, though rather plucked out of a hat, was quite poignant, and made me wish the film had earned it.

Overall, Creative Nonfiction isn’t the worst film I’ve seen in my life. There are definitely positives to be found within it. However, the obvious production errors, the bad acting, and especially the nonexistent plot make the film not worth watching. If you’re a huge Lena Dunham fan or curious to see what a student film looks like, I guess it may be interesting to watch, but for anyone else I wouldn’t recommend it.

Final Score: 42/100.