In Stereo is a particular kind of romantic comedy, the kind full of characters that aren’t remotely romantic, that tends more toward wit and sarcasm rather than light or camp comedy (unless it involves someone getting beaten up), and the kind 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; little mean and actually very funny if you prefer wit or even sarcasm to fart jokes; which 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 a thing 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 actress, respectively, and their decidedly stereophonic relationship. He’s neurotic and she’s narcissistic; they are each good on their own, but together – better. When the film begins they’ve already broken up. They are running mono, as it were, he’s dealing with a cheating girlfriend and she’s 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 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; trying to understand why everything feels like it’s worth a little less – unless they’re together. The problem for them being – being together.
There was a time when films like In Stereo were the talk of the indie cinema scene; adored for their darkly funny, fresh and edgy 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); all good movies that I enjoyed, but personally, I’m not done with romance, not even the messed-up ones; and especially cynical New York romances about artsy-assholes who probably deserve their romantic and other miseries. Which reminds me… also see film called Listen Up, Philip, with Jason Schwartzman andElisabeth Moss. It’s mean and funny too.
In anycase, with his first feature writer/director Mel Rodriguez, III’s, 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. In Stereo is sharply written, it’s performances are good and very good, and it has a boss-ass soundtrack.It ain’t When Harry Met Sally, but who gives a f%#k.