Joshua Moore's debut feature I Think It's Raining (2011) hits its indie marks dutifully; one might even say predictably. Its meandering narrative structure exerts a measure of desultory charm and its affectionate usage of San Franciscan locales—Sam Wo's in Chinatown, the Noe Ministry and Recycled Records in Noe Valley, Duboce Park, to name a few—secures its status as the opening night entry for the San Francisco Film Society's Cinema By the Bay (November 3–6, 2011). To his credit, Moore avoids the obvious branded architecture of San Francisco—there's no Golden Gate, no Coit Tower, and hardly a storefront in the Financial District—and instead he chooses his locales from an insider's perspective familiar with the City's chummy neighborhoods, its MUNI bus stops, its boxcar Victorian interiors, and its geometric backyards cordoned off by fences and exterior stairwells. The look of his film achieves the lived-in feel of a young person's San Francisco and is one of the film's strongest assets. A Noir City poster on a bedroom wall probably won't even be noticed by anyone other than a local who has taken fun advantage of that film festival, but for them it will have particular resonance as an insider's valentine to a younger way of life in the City, fed by Chinese take-out and Zona Rosa burritos, and lots of aimless momentum. Only the young really know how to waste time like that. And—as Alissa Simon nails it in her Variety review—it's the younger, less discriminating audiences who will probably be enthused about I Think It's Raining. They'll relate to its seeming spontaneity.
The only trouble with spontaneity, of course, is that it is often self-serving, which is definitely the case with the film's lead character Renata (Alexandra Clayton) who—too young, perhaps, to afford therapy—takes her neuroses out on the film's audience. I wish I could find Clayton's performance as "mesmerizing" as the program notes assert. Instead I found her "acting" irritating and I don't think it's just because her messed-up bitch of a character is supposed to be irritating. Frankly, it's been a while since I've seen a young actress hit every false note imaginable in a characterization. Pretentious, petulant, rude, snide, spiteful—all calculated and telegraphed in advance—and all because of some great big secret about having to grow up, combined with an unattractive inability to know how to play well with others because that would just be bullshit, right? Okay. Fine. Just like childhood cannot wait for the parent to grow up, the audience cannot wait for the performance to achieve nuance. I've no doubt Clayton did the best she could with the character handed her, so I'm led to suspect the fault lies in the writing. Renata is just not that interesting of a person.
By contrast, the appearance of Andrew Dulman as Renata's overnight dalliance Val is a welcome relief about midway through the pic, not only because he's handsome and funny, but because he's genuinely interesting for being refreshingly down-to-earth. His rooftop argument with Renata could almost be read as an argument against the direction the script is taking. One wishes he could have shaken the shoulders of this narrative for being misbehaved, unruly and vertiginously sociopathic. But then Moore wouldn't have had his movie.
There is strong evidence of a cinematic sensibility discovering itself in I Think It's Raining and the film deserves marks for its brave—if slightly misguided—exploration of an unattractive character, the fluid urban cinematography of Sinisa Kukic, and evocative dips into San Francisco's diverse music scene.