In Stereo looks at modern romance–but not too deeply

C+ Relationship drama

Written and Directed by Mel Rodriguez III

My press materials from Circus Road Films describes In Stereo as an “un-romantic comedy.” That’s not only a lie–it’s two lies. The movie succeeds best when it allows itself to be romantic. And it is in no way, shape, or form a comedy. Only one scene, where an actress auditions for a herpes public service announcement, brought me even close to a glimmer of anything that might be called laughter.

That’s not a criticism of In Stereo. A lot of great films are devoid of laughs. It’s just a case of false advertising.

But this story of former lovers who may or may not get back together has its own rewards, but also some very serious flaws. It glides along on the charisma of the two leads, but never really brings us into their characters’ souls.

The problems start in the very first scene, when we meet David (Micah Hauptman) and Brenda (Beau Garrett), very much a couple in love. But this one short scene doesn’t give us a good reason to care about their relationship, and it’s the last of that relationship we’re going to see for a long time.

The narrative then skips ahead 18 months and concentrates on David. He’s got a successful career as a photographer, but his love life is in shambles. His current girlfriend (Maggie Geha) is spending quality time with David’s best friend. He doesn’t confront them, but keeps it inside.

Then the focus switches to Brenda, now a reasonably successful actress whose career is already on the way down. Her complete lack of social skills, and her habit of bluntly telling off powerful people, has made her unemployable. She’s also about to lose her apartment.

Halfway through the film, David and Brenda run into each other, and the rest of the film has them dancing around the possibility of getting back together. This is when In Stereo comes most alive. Hauptman and Garrett have a nice chemistry together, and it’s easy to root for them refalling in love.

Ultimately, that chemistry makes In Stereo work–to the degree that it works at all. For the most part, it’s just too shallow for the relationship drama that Rodriguez presumably wanted to make.

For what it’s worth, there’s a lot of sex in the movie (if it was rated, it would probably get an R), but nothing truly erotic. It’s set in that version of New York City where everyone is hip and reasonably well-off.