★ / ★★★★
Co-workers Paul (Alex Karpovsky) and Danielle (Jamie Ray Newman) went out for one weekend about eight months ago. They made love, went to the movies, and then Danielle decided to call it quits. For a while, it seems as though Paul is able to accept the rejection. They are courteous to each other in the lab and there is never a problem. However, when a new employee named Chris (Dennis Staroselsky) joins their team, Danielle appears to be attracted to him. Paul gets very jealous.
There is such a thing as downplaying the material so much that it ends up being dull. “Rubberneck,” written by Garth Donovan and Alex Karpovsky, moves slower than a snail’s pace which makes its less than ninety minutes running time feel like a chore.
To its credit, it is interested in showing details. We watch Paul at his place of work, how he interacts with his fellow workers, how he handles the equipment and the animals. We see him hanging out with his sister (Amanda Good Hennessey) and nephew, as well as listen to the sorts of sensitive topics within their family. Finally, we observe him going on dates with other women and how he finds it a struggle to relate with them at times.
Despite the screenplay being successful in creating a portrait of Paul’s interior life, nothing much happens until way past the halfway point when most of us no longer care. It involves someone getting hurt and the police getting involved. Aside from that one game-changing event, the rest reverts to the camera capturing solemn looks and the main character staring at a fixed point. It is a most soporific experience.
While it is important that we get inside Paul’s mind so we can ascertain the roots of his obsession with Danielle, the screenplay’s supporting characters are pushed to the side. They are one-dimensional. I thought Danielle is moody, Chris makes an attractive Biology teacher, and Paul’s sister is always concerned about her brother. Try as I may, I do not know how else to describe their personalities or what motivates them. I can probably describe how their apartments look like.
There are plenty of scenes that show Paul being an average guy. If the central character had been partnered with a script that had a bit more flavor and conflict that we could invest in intellectually, emotionally, and psychologically, average Paul’s story would have had several layers of intrigue or at least a genuine sense of danger. Instead, he blends into the background.
Directed by Alex Karpovsky, “Rubberneck” is supposed to be based on real events so in order to make the happenings believable, the drama is softened or muffled. This would likely to have been a good approach if there had been something else underneath what is expected of the sub-genre involving innocuous-looking guys ending up in a whole lot of trouble.