26 January 2011 | Buddy-51
of some interest but the premise is inadequately developed
The course of our lives is determined by the countless decisions - both major and minor - we make on a daily basis. So much so that one simple and seemingly insignificant act of choice can set the course for our entire future, including where we'll go to school, who we'll wind up marrying, whether we'll be killed crossing that street or live another fifty years because we took a different route entirely. That is the theme explored in "Uncertainty," a dual-level drama produced, written and directed by Scott McGehee and David Siegel.
The movie opens with a young couple - played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Lynn Collins - standing on the Brooklyn Bridge, obviously on the brink of making some major decision regarding their future. After a coin flip, one heads in one direction (to Manhattan) and one in the other (to Brooklyn), leading the couple to have distinctly different experiences in what might be thought of as parallel universes. In the Manhattan-based scenario, Bobby and Kate, dressed in yellow, are plunged into a bizarre cloak-and-dagger tale set off by the finding of a cell phone in the back of a cab (a bit like "24" if it were made on an indie-film budget); the other direction leads to a more mundane domestic drama wherein the lovers, dressed in green, celebrate the 4th of July with Kate's family, including the overly critical mother who drives the young woman crazy with her negativity and interference.
The different-paths-equals-different-outcomes theme has been explored before, most notably in 1998's "Sliding Doors," but here the why and the wherefore of it all seems to have eluded the filmmakers - as it does us. Each storyline is interesting enough in its own right - and the acting and direction are first-rate throughout - but they fail to come together in any kind of a meaningful way. They literally run along parallel tracks, with no point of convergence from which we can deduce a point - unless it's that bright yellow is probably not the best fashion choice when you're trying to outrun a hit man.
Moreover, the movie doesn't lay down the ground rules for the scenario in a very coherent or consistent fashion. The synopsis for the film says that the couple uses the coin flip to determine how they're going to spend that holiday weekend. Yet, it's obviously much more complicated than that, for in one version, Kate is pregnant, but in the other she isn't (or, at least, it's never mentioned). In one, she is the star of a Broadway play; in the other, she says she works at a restaurant. And the two couples obviously live in different parts of town. Perhaps, consistency really is the hobgoblin of little minds and we should be looking at the larger picture here, but, all the same, the movie leaves us with a lot of unanswered questions, which may not necessarily be a bad thing, but it can make for a frustrating experience at times.
I recommend watching "Uncertainty" for the risks it takes and the mood it sets (Peter Nashel's evocative score is very helpful in that regard) but, when it comes right down to it, the movie seems a commendable but over-elaborate effort at stating the obvious.