I can honestly say that Lynn Shelton's "Humpday" is one of the most undervalued films I've seen in a while. I know it has its detractors, but I felt it was a spot-on comedy of awkwardness and bluster featuring three terrific lead performances! So checking out the director's other work was a no-brainer. Shelton's micro indie "My Effortless Brilliance" fits comfortably in the same wheelhouse but it is evident that the film is a precursor to the more accomplished "Humpday." Still an enjoyable excursion into improv drama, "My Effortless Brilliance" may suffer from being too slight. It's pleasant without being memorable. If you're fans of this genre (and if you don't readily identify what this genre is--you probably aren't), I'd definitely recommend the film. If you're just discovering it, however, try "Humpday" or a Duplass brothers' film and then revisit this one.
The story, what there is of one, is really secondary to the actors riffing off one another. A self-involved novelist has alienated his closest friend. Two years later, they meet up again for a few days of male bonding in the woods. That's it. If you need more high concept plotting, you're going to have to go elsewhere. There is some fish out of water comedy as the city boy adapts to the wild, some discussion of literature, plenty of drinking, a bit of wood chopping, and a delightful cougar hunt. What is special about "My Effortless Brilliance" (aside from the title which I might steal for my autobiography) is the verbal interplay. The two guys get past their standoffishness and start to embrace the casual pattern of friendship that is never forgotten. Sean Nelson and Basil Harris have a relaxed chemistry and when an delightfully intense Calvin Reeder (as a real outdoorsman) joins the team, the comic improv is satisfyingly goofy and entertaining.
The specific reason for the two year heterosexual break-up is never discussed in detail, and I thought that decision was inspired and realistic. What was more troubling, however, was that I never really understood how or why these two guys were friends in the first place. They have little in common aside from a playful banter--so I just had to take it at face value. Fun, yet ultimately superficial (largely for the reason I just mentioned), "My Effortless Brilliance" is a solid work by a director just finding a voice. I will watch out for Lynn Shelton because I like what that voice has to say. KGHarris 9/10.