Mumblecore Movies From The Low Budget Genre: 8 Essentials

Categorised by naturalistic performances, the use of improv and a plot which usually involves a twenty-something struggling to make sense of their lives, Mumblecore is a genre many of us love, but may not necessarily know a lot about.

Considering that the genre is also characterised by organic sound and dialogue, non-professional actors and the use of digital film-making equipment, Mumblecore may just be the low-budget genre of dreams for budding independent film-makers.

Here are 8 essential Mumblecore movies to get you more acquainted with the origins of the low-budget genre, that’s increasingly making its way onto our screens.

Funny Ha Ha (2002)

Despite characteristics of this genre being apparent in films including Woody Allen’s Manhattan and Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise trilogy, Andrew Bujalski’s Funny Ha Ha is generally considered the first real example of Mumblecore, and stars Kate Dollenmayer as Marnie, a recent graduate who’s on the hunt for a temporary job, and a not so temporary boyfriend in the form of her college friend Alex.

The Puffy Chair (2005)

Directed by Jay Duplass, and starring Mark Duplass The Puffy Chair follows Josh Sagers, who’s on the quest to deliver a used purple lazy boy –a replica of his father’s old armchair, to his dad as a birthday present. But the cross-country journey is anything but smooth, and hilarity ensues. The film, which helped launch Netflix’s original content career, is as about low-budget as it gets, with the Duplass brothers shooting the film on $15,000, using digital equipment, and casting girlfriends/friends in lead roles.

Breaking Upwards (2009)

Directed by Zoe Lister-Jones and Daryl Wein, who star as – you guessed it Zoe and Daryl, Breaking Upwards centres on an unorthodox young couple from New York, who strategically manufacture their own breakup. It’s hard to believe that this feature length rom-com, which was shot in the streets of Manhattan and Brooklyn, had a budget of just $15,000.

Tiny Furniture (2010)

Dysfunction and on-screen awkwardness are key tropes of Mumblecore, and the plot of Tiny Furniture is no exception. Written and directed by Dunham, Tiny Furniture follows Aurora’s decent into a “post graduate delirium” through frankly charting the lows, and even more lows of trying to forge a life soon after returning home from graduation. The film, which of course, paved the way for the hit series Girls, stars Dunham’s mother and sister, and was also shot digitally, using a Canon EOS 7D.

Your Sister’s Sister (2011)

Written and directed by Lynn Shelton and starring Emily Blunt and Mark Duplass, Your Sister’s Sister is an American comedy-drama which centres on Jack, whose decision to take up the invitation to stay at his friend Iris’ family island getaway leads to way more than either of them could imagine. Filmed in Seattle’s San Juan islands, Your Sister’s Sister was shot in just 12 days, and was an immediate success when it premièred at the Toronto Film Festival back in 2011.

Happy Christmas (2014)

With an all star cast including Anna Kendrick, Lena Dunham and Melanie Lynskey, Happy Christmas is an incredibly easy watch, which explores what occurs when the irresponsible Jenny, played by Kendrick, unexpectedly bonds with her sister-in-law after moving in with her film-maker brother in Chicago. Happy Christmas, which made it’s debut at Sundance film festival in 2014, had a considerably higher budget of $70,000, but should be singled out for it’s naturalistic dialogue and low-key, yet memorable performances.

Frances Ha (2012)

Next is the first, and arguably most iconic Baumbach-Gerwig collaboration, Frances Ha.  Often thought of as the Breathless of Mumblecore movies due to it’s commercial critical acclaim and accessibility, Frances Ha was an instant hit with Mumblecore fans and cinema goers alike. Let’s face it – it’s hard not to watch Frances attempt to master life as an adult, whilst navigating her way around her unfulfilled career and dysfunctional relationships, and find the film anything but endearing.

Humpday (2009)

Last up we have the Mumblecore classic Humpday starring Joshua Leonard and Mark Duplass. Written, produced and directed by Lynn Shelton – the queen of Mumblecore, Humpday is an indie comedy that questions how far a modern-day bromance will go, when best friends Ben and Andrew are dared to create a pornographic film or “art film project” which they hope to submit to the HUMP! Film Festival.  The movie which had it’s UK première at the Raindance Film Festival in 2009, like the majority of these movies, had a shoestring budget, but has still managed to please film buffs and film critics alike.

See Raindance’s other low budget related articles – “Classic Top 10 No Budget Films” and “Raindance’s 10 Commandments of Low Budget Films

Learn everything there is to know about creating a low-budget film on Raindance’s “Lo-To-No Budget Film-making Course” in February.