You never appreciate how smartly written Lena Dunham’s Girls is until you watch a mediocre variation on the same theme. Fort Tilden, the debut picture from writer-directors Sarah-Violet Bliss and Charles Rogers (with co-writer Brian Lannin), is also an irreverent comedy about 20-something women struggling to get their lives started in Brooklyn. But this new film suffers from uninteresting, unlikable characters, from half-hearted, predictable jokes, and from dull, unimaginative visuals.
Dunham’s characters make a lot of dumb decisions, but you always get the sense that they’d do the right thing if only they could figure out what it was. Fort Tilden’s characters seem to make dumb decisions because they’re not very smart and don’t care if they aren’t.
We first meet the two protagonists, Allie (Clare McNulty) and Harper (Bridey Elliot), roommates in a Williamsburg apartment, at a singer-songwriter concert where they text snarky comments about the performers. Bliss and Rogers are trying to satirize the mean-spirited condescension of such hipster snobbishness, but the directors are just as mean and condescending to their protagonists as Allie and Harper are to the earnest folk singers. When you try to attack snark with more snark, everyone just feels sullied.
Allie and Harper meet two cute boys at the concert and make plans to meet at Brooklyn’s Fort Tilden beach the next day, even though Allie is supposed to attend a key training session for her Peace Corps assignment and Harper is supposed to work on her long-half-finished painting. The two women pedal their bicycles through the nice and not-so-nice parts of Brooklyn, suffering one disaster after another, learning not a single lesson from any of them. The pair is such an easy target that there’s not even any pleasure in their eventual comeuppance.