I really wanted to like Gabi on the Roof in July, as I enjoyed the story’s documentary-like feel with its slow, meandering story and natural dialogue. However, my enjoyment of the film was hampered by the fact that I disliked virtually every single character. It was like a showcase of everything that is annoying about art students trying too hard to be artistic. This would have been absolutely fine if the film was plot-driven, but alas this was not the case.
Written and directed by Lawrence Michael Levine, Gabi on the Roof in July is about an ambitious painter named Sam (Levine) whose flirtatious, free-spirited younger sister Gabi (Sophia Takal) comes to stay with him for the summer. She causes chaos, and by the end of the film we’re supposed to pity her, for she is only a young and naïve college girl after all. It didn’t work for me. I couldn’t feel sorry for any character that obnoxious. And the whole being-naked-and-trying-to-get-her-brother-naked-too stuff didn’t emphasize what a “free spirit” she is… it was just a bit disturbing. Her friend Dory is almost likeable, until you put both Dory and Gabi in the same room as another female. For some reason, they don’t seem to be able to handle this and just stare at the floor and scoff repetitively. Hugely irritating.
As for Sam, the way his two love interests interact with him actually made me laugh out loud. They seem to find him irresistible, unable to make eye contact with him without withering into his arms. Please…
Not surprisingly, the character I liked the most was Charles (Robert White), Sam’s roommate, because he is the comically silent character. Yet, on the rare occasions that he did or said something, it made the funniest moments in the film. There were also great performances from Brooke Bloom and Amy Seimetz, who play Sam’s girlfriend-then-ex and ex-then-girlfriend.
When there wasn’t heavy use of the word “like” and an abundance of annoying vocal inflections, occasionally amplified by the artist’s cliché that is marijuana, it was enjoyable to watch the story slowly progress and for everything to naturally fall into place. However, if you’re going to make something so character-driven, it is absolutely crucial that you develop characters that are, if not likeable, at least sympathetic and/or empathetic.