Love and relationships can be a tricky subject to tackle in a film. Many have tried, and many have failed. Being such a lucrative concept, it is difficult to create a storyline that feels fresh and relatable. Mel Rodriguez III’s dark romantic dramedy, In Stereo, attempts to display a modern take on friendship and betrayal, mixed with a healthy dose of relationship purgatory of two single adults in their thirties.
The title, a singularly clever choice by Rodriguez, is a clear progeny of his experience as an editor on such indie features as Drop Dead Sexy and the award-winning documentary, We Live in Public.
The film takes the theme of stereo, which any music lover knows means that both speakers in a sound system are playing different parts of a single track that come together to create a song. The editing effectively uses split screens to help tell the juxtaposed stories of David and Brenda (our two semi-single adults in their thirties) played by Micah Hauptman and Beau Garrett. This also adds a nice little flair of style along with quirky 70s style font captions to give the film that cool, indie feel.
When the chemistry between the actors is lacking, it is incredibly difficult to tell a story about relationships, even if they are about ones that lack chemistry.
If a film really wants to score some big points in its style column, the cinematography should always come into play. Especially when the film’s protagonist is a photographer, the eye is drawn to the camera movement and screen composition. The cinematographer, Bryan Koss– one of many experienced crew members on this production– does well in creating a quirky meets cool style of aesthetic, using white lighting to lighten the color pallet in exterior daytime while incorporating shadows and heavier colors in the nighttime. However, there are certain daytime interior shots, such as the scenes with David’s psychiatrist (Sean Cullen), that lacked the professional look of other shots by possibly over extending itself in regards to lighting and camera angle simplicity to maintain a quirkiness, and drew away from the actor’s performance.
Both Hauptman and Garrett give very energetic and likable performances. Both of the characters’ misfortunes are handled with humor and understanding of actors that deserve to see more leading roles, however, this may not be their break out film. Unfortunately, with the exception of Mario Cantone’s delightfully blunt and spunky agent archetype, the rest of the cast leaves the leads with little to act against, causing awkwardness within the dialogue’s rhythm in certain scenes. When the chemistry between the actors is lacking, it is incredibly difficult to tell a story about relationships, even if they are about ones that lack chemistry.
Romance is one of the most used themes in storytelling and, as such, makes it a challenge to use effectively. While In Stereo has all of the elements of a cliché love story, it has moments of humor to moderately offset its shortcomings in pathos and storytelling, making it somewhat watchable. Most importantly, there are glimmers of great talent within the cast and crew, making it wise to keep an eye on what they do next.
In Stereo opens at the Laemmle Music Hall this Friday.