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Movie review: 'Monogamy'

An engaged couple's relationship is threatened by the boyfriend's increasingly dark impulses in the taut indie thriller from Dana Adam Shapiro ('Murderball').

March 18, 2011|By Robert Abele, Special to the Los Angeles Times
  • Chris Messina and Rashida Jones star in "Monogamy."
Chris Messina and Rashida Jones star in "Monogamy." (Oscilloscope Pictures )

If you ever thought the peekaboo ominousness of "Blow-Up" or "The Conversation" could be the template for a relationship fidelity drama, "Monogamy" is your movie.

Set in New York, director/co-writer Dana Adam Shapiro's small-scale indie — his first narrative feature after the acclaimed documentary "Murderball" — charts the obsessive neurosis of Theo (Chris Messina), a wedding photographer whose arty side project is being hired by clients to take their picture unwittingly in on-the-street situations.

His upcoming marriage to nice, attractive songwriter Nat (Rashida Jones) is jeopardized, however, by his increasing infatuation with a mysterious, sexy, blond exhibitionist (Meital Dohan).

Despite the trappings of boho romantic angst (loosely filmed dramatic spats, standard-issue venting about women from male buddies) that occasionally threaten to dilute the film, Shapiro's handling of Theo's darker impulses is unusually suspenseful and provocative for a portrait of wayward slackerdom.

Messina never begs for sympathy, earning a certain lab-specimen heft even as his self-centeredness appalls, while the deceptive grit behind Jones' melancholic beauty makes her more than your garden variety bad-boyfriend victim.

"Monogamy" ultimately suffers from a late-inning collapse into thematic obviousness and multiple endings, but in its moodier, murkier contours — intimately, vividly (and digitally) captured on streets and indoors by cinematographer Doug Emmett — Shapiro puts his own stamp on voyeur cinema.

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