- In Stereo (2015) movie review: Feature film newcomer Mel Rodriguez III has come up with a sharp, well-acted romantic comedy that feels like a throwback to gutsy American indies of years past.
In Stereo movie review: Witty & sarcastic romantic comedy brings back memories of edgy love stories from American indie cinema of yore
In Stereo is a particular kind of romantic comedy; the kind full of characters that aren’t remotely romantic, that tend more toward wit and sarcasm rather than light or camp humor (unless it involves someone getting beaten up), and in which things may very well turn out badly for the protagonists, whom we may or may not be inclined to root for or even like.
That’s my kind of romantic comedy. A little mean and very funny if you prefer wit and sarcasm to fart jokes – as witty and sarcastic people always do.
Fuller & truer togetherness
By definition, something that is in stereo comes at you from at least two directions at once – the same yet different – together creating something that is fuller and truer than either of the elements alone.
In Stereo, the movie, is about David (Micah Hauptman) and Brenda (Beau Garrett), a photographer and an actress, respectively, and their decidedly stereophonic relationship. He’s neurotic and she’s narcissistic; they’re each good on their own, but together they’re better.
When In Stereo begins, they’ve already broken up. They’re running in mono, as it were: He’s dealing with a cheating girlfriend and she has just lost her TV show and her apartment.
They couldn’t be farther apart, yet they’re on a trajectory that will bring them back together. Or maybe not.
We get to watch David and Brenda and the movie’s few other characters as they flit about the New York art scene, engaged in their lives and in their art, while the former couple tries to understand why everything feels like it’s worth a little less unless they’re together.
But then there’s the problem of being together.
Where has messed-up indie romance gone?
There was a time when movies like In Stereo were the talk of the indie cinema scene; they were adored for their fresh, edgy, and darkly humorous look at contemporary romance. Today, that scene is more likely to embrace stories about marginalized communities in films like Dear White People, Dope, or even Whiplash. (If you consider white jazz drummers a marginalized community.)
These are all movies that I enjoyed, but personally I’m not done with romance, not even of the messed-up kind – especially cynical New York romances about artsy assholes who probably deserve their romantic and other miseries. (Which reminds me: Do check out last year’s Listen Up Philip, with Jason Schwartzman and Elisabeth Moss. It’s also mean and funny.)
Sharp feature debut
In his first feature, In Stereo writer/director Mel Rodriguez III gives us a funky New York-set romp that feels like an episode of Sex and the City on meth. Which is meant as a compliment.
The film’s writing is sharp, its performances are very good, and it has a boss-ass soundtrack. It ain’t When Harry Met Sally…, but who gives a f%#k?
In Stereo (2015)
Direction & Screenplay: Mel Rodriguez III.
Cast: Micah Hauptman. Beau Garrett. Aimee Mullins. Melissa Bolona. Mario Cantone. Sean Cullen. Dan Domingues.
“In Stereo (2015) Movie Review” endnotes
Micah Hauptman In Stereo movie image: Circus Road Films.
“In Stereo Movie (2015): Sarcastic Romcom” last updated in January 2022.