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Originally published Thursday, November 1, 2012 at 3:00 PM

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'Nobody Walks': A hot-to-trot house guest disrupts a family's home

A movie review of "Nobody Walks," a drama about a Los Angeles couple (John Krasinski, Rosemarie DeWitt) whose relationship is stress-tested by the arrival of a young woman artist (Olivia Thirlby).

San Francisco Chronicle

Movie review 2 stars

'Nobody Walks,' with John Krasinski, Olivia Thirlby, Rosemarie DeWitt, India Ennenga. Directed by Ry Russo-Young, from a screenplay by Russo-Young and Lena Dunham. 83 minutes. Rated R for sexuality, language and some drug use. Sundance Cinemas and on-demand cable.

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The relationship of a comfortable Los Angeles couple is stress-tested by the arrival of a young woman artist in "Nobody Walks," a film incubated at the Sundance Institute. There are compelling moments and performances as the story details the effects of the erotic charge carried by the visitor, but the point of it all is finally elusive.

Martine (Olivia Thirlby), 23, is barely off the plane from her native New York when a new acquaintance puts some heavy moves on her, which does not bode well for the marriage of the folks she's come to stay with: movie sound man Peter (John Krasinski) and his psychotherapist wife, Julie (Rosemarie DeWitt). Martine is making an experimental short film featuring scorpions and ants as part of an art installation, and Peter has agreed to help with the soundtrack.

Peter and Martine spend a lot of time together in his soundproof home studio, and, with the sexual vibes she gives off, his willpower doesn't last long. She later takes up with Peter's handsome assistant, who also happens to have caught the eye of Peter and Julie's precocious 16-year-old daughter (India Ennenga), who is not unaware that she is arousing the lust of her much-older Italian tutor.

Meanwhile, one of Julie's patients, a screenwriter, would like to move their relationship in a decidedly nonprofessional direction.

In tracing the emotional consequences of all this heat and smoke, the film never really gives us a handle on its central figure. Is she conscious of what she's doing? Self-deceived? Pathological? She remains roughly half a character.

Don't fault Thirlby, who does as much as she can with the material. Krasinski is pretty good, and DeWitt and Ennenga are outstanding. The direction is decent, and the film is handsome. But it's finally frustrating, enigmatic in a way that suggests emptiness more than mystery.

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