Thursday, August 11, 2011

Monogamy (2010)

Cold feet

A photographer in Brooklyn named Theo, who normally snaps traditional wedding photos, recently started a service called "gumshoot." Participants are shot while they go about a scheduled activity of their choice while he hides in the shadows to capture something more genuine and then later gives the resulting photos in person. After about a dozen or so clients, he thinks he's got a pretty good impression of what to expect, such as an older gentleman carrying about a carefree day in the city with no scandal or malice involved. Though after getting contacted by the mysterious "Subgirl," for what's supposed to be a regular day on the tennis courts, he gets sucked into something more voyeuristic and naughty when she touches herself and only he can see it. She eludes meeting face to face and lets him choose the photos to send to an anonymous PO box, which not only builds up intrigue but places the rest of his life into a tailspin.

This essentially films the last stages of Theo (Chris Messina) just before he plans on getting married in drawn out and slow sequences. For those not familiar with such deliberately paced films, the key word is "natural": loose hand-held shots to make it more edgy, fractured dialogue that comes with enough stammering to compete with "The King's Speech," and casual humor that's so dry you could spark a brushfire. There are a few hints dropped to what it was like in the past with his fiance Nat (Rashida Jones), though this tried to show a breakdown in only a short duration by having him question himself and lose all perspective just from his fiance not giving him any, to the perverse new client Subgirl, as well as his two buddies--one bossed around in marriage and the other separated but happy in single life. They frequently attempt to have the camera do the talking and the main actor capture subtle emotion on his face for what he's contemplating and going through. However a proper outline of the past wasn't entirely established and the scenarios at present--despite being extensively shot--don't seem detrimental enough to sabotage what he has going for himself on a whim. It's hard to relate or reason with almost anything he's doing except to say he feels trapped and is using this as a long and fanciful way out.

"Monogamy" tried to be purely emotion as a share of Theo's motivations are based on raw feelings rather than life experiences or even logic. Eventually it makes you want slap the character up side the head because he's so catered to one side and tell him to just make a decision instead of acting like an immature 30-something adult who still uses passive aggressive behavior like a teenager. Theo starts to sulk, become erratic and sheltered from those around him. This isn't afraid to show him in a negative light, as he turns into a corner dweller, binge drinker, pot smoker, mask wearer, snooper, restroom masturbator, semi-cross dresser and in his self-destruction pushes his nice and pretty fiance away because monogamy is terrifying and how he's behaving apparently isn't to himself but some kind of screwball way of coping till a magic solution pops up. It's ridiculous that someone who lives in a bustling city and with access to thousands upon thousands of websites that show pornographic videos and images nowadays would be so naive and sheltered that this Subgirl woman would be cause enough to throw off his entire outlook from taking snap shots of her on only the second occasion. I mean this isn't some small town yokel or even young enough to be believably impressionable like Kyle MacLachlan's character in the film "Blue Velvet." He turns into an amateur detective to find out more about Subgirl, though the movie moves at such a lethargic pacing that the final secret about how to make it work in a monogamist relationship--while dissimilar to the usual material a la "Unfaithful"--is pretty evident by the halfway mark.

There's some potential here. The gumshoot concept that involves sneaking around to naturally capture someone was an intriguing idea. Just imagine how many people's vacation photos you might accidentally be in that are probably more natural than all those posed ones. It shows that not all relationships have to go the conventional route to work. It's nice to see a movie that at least makes an attempt at growth with characters, though I'd like to think "Monogamy" could have improved with some more back-story, possibly a younger cast or a smaller setting to make it more convincing towards their behavior, or some tighter edits in other areas where nothing substantial was going on besides the camera just rolling to get lucky and stumble upon something.

Rating: 4/10

Director: Dana Adam Shapiro (Murderball)
Stars: Chris Messina, Rashida Jones
Link: IMDB

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