Oscilloscope // 2011 // 99 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Bill Gibron // July 8th, 2011
Love Me Do...Love Me Don't...Love Me Don't Care...
Attractive actors. An attempt at capturing real life via fictional filmmaking. Smart 30-somethings exploring the varying dynamics of their seemingly sound relationship. What's not to like? Well, the answer is...a lot. Monogamy represents the first non-documentary for Murderball maker Dana Adam Shapiro and, clearly, the conventions of telling a made-up story can't help but undermine his ambitions. At its core, this is a movie about trust and commitment. The title truly sells it all. But there are also elements here that can't work, facets of both narrative and artistic approach that de-evolve and then derail everything we've seen before.
Theo (Chris Messina, Julie and Julia) is a wedding photographer. He is engaged to chipper musician Nat (Rashida Jones, I Love You, Man). Their relationship is solid, borne out of endless hours examining themselves and each other while sharing intimacies and private jokes. In order to supplement his unstable income, Theo has come up with an unusual service called "Gumshoots." Clients hire him to stalk them with his camera and then take candid, off the cuff photos. It's all very voyeuristic and quasi-naughty. One day, Theo captures an anonymous woman pleasuring herself in a public place. He instantly becomes infatuated, and then obsessed, with her. Nat tries to understand his fixation, yet understands the potential harm to their relationship. As Theo gets deeper and deeper into the unknown lady's lifestyle, he threatens the very thing he supposedly cherishes most.
A movie like Monogamy is irritating for a lot of reasons. First, it follows the typical new age mantra that men are pampered pigs, prepared to piss away years of hard interpersonal work for a glimpse of panty and the promise of something scandalous. Theo may drone on and on about his love for Nat, but give him a mystery masturbator and all future nuptial bets are off. Even worse, he wants to drag his poor guitar-strumming gal along for a midlife crisis that's arriving 15 years too early. At this point, the movie starts to meander, inferring something more sinister with Theo's film stock femme fatale. Then it bogs down in more "do you love me" monologues. All the while, Shapiro shakes the lens like he's suffering from some kind of seizure, hoping the handheld dynamic will bring some fresh immediacy to the mix. It doesn't. While Messina and Jones are more than capable, this is an idea -- and an approach -- that constantly suffers by comparison. Monogamy wants to be Blue Valentine or Two Lovers. Truth is, it can barely stand on its own.
As for the DVD specs, Oscilloscope does a decent job here. The 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen image is excellent -- that is, when Shapiro settles down and lets us see what's going on. The colors are rich and vibrant, the exteriors balanced well with the much darker and more compact interiors. There is also a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix which allows for some decent atmospherics among the back channels. Since this is an incredibly talky film, the front speakers keep the conversations clear and easy to understand. By the way, there are songs here, and many of them will try your indie shoe-gazer patience, no matter the sonic presentation (there is also a 2.0 track available). Finally, added content consists of a music video, some deleted (and unnecessary) scenes, outtakes, and a trailer.
It's never easy to switch genres, especially when your first foray was so well received and respected. Murderball took a standard story -- someone overcoming a handicap to excel at their chosen field -- and instilled it with a sense of wonder. Monogamy can't match that movie -- narratively, emotionally, artistically. From its slow pace to lackluster payoff, it underwhelms and underachieves.
Guilty...like listening to smug hipsters argue over inconsequential
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 99 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Deleted Scenes
* Music Video