Japan’s Aokigahara forest is infamous as a haunted place, where people from around the world travel to commit suicide. In 2016 though, it’s become where film crews go to make bad movies. First “The Forest,” then “The Sea of Trees,” and now “The People Garden” have all transformed the eerie beauty of Aokigahara into a blank canvas, onto which they’ve scribbled banalities.
“The People Garden” stars Dree Hemingway as Sweetpea, a completely nondescript young woman who flies to Japan to break up with her rock star boyfriend, Jamie. When Sweetpea arrives, she learns Jamie’s disappeared into the forest. Worried that he’s planning to harm himself, she asks the people working on his music video for clues to where he might have gone — and why.
To accomplish this, Sweetpea just sort of … walks around. And smokes. And stares off into the distance. And pauses for five seconds or so between each whispered line of dialogue. Writer-director Nadia Litz appears to be aiming for narrative minimalism, keeping the characters’ backstories and present actions equally muted and curtailed.
“The People Garden” does look pretty — which is to be expected, given that it’s set in the woods. And the movie gets a too-brief lift from cameos by James Le Gros as an unflappable director and Pamela Anderson as an aging sex symbol.
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Mostly though, “The People Garden” is so slow and spare that it barely registers. It just floats through the forest, silent and bloodless.
‘The People Garden’
Running time: 1 hour, 23 minutes
Playing: Starts Tuesday at the Downtown Independent, Los Angeles
Relax 'The People Garden' falls in the forest and doesn't make a sound (or much of anything else) stories
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