'In Stereo': Witty & sarcastic romantic comedy
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 comedy (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. This is 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.
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 film, 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 are each good on their own, but together they're better.
When In Stereo begins they've already broken up. They are 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 are on a trajectory that will bring them back together – or maybe not.
We get to watch David and Brenda and the 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.
'In Stereo': Sharp throwback to romantic indies of yore
There was a time when films 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.)
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).
Dir. / Scr.: Mel Rodriguez III.
Cast: Micah Hauptman. Beau Garrett. Aimee Mullins. Melissa Bolona. Mario Cantone. Sean Cullen. Dan Domingues. Chivonne Michelle. Kevin Craig West. Emmy Harrington. Kieran Campion. Ryan Duncan. Gary Hilborn. Daniel Pettrow. Michael Dean. Brian J. Carter. Dillan Arrick. Jessica Jean Wilson. Tony Rossi.
In Stereo movie images with Micah Hauptman and Beau Garrett: Circus Road Films.
In Stereo cast info via the IMDb.