"Monogamy" Brings The Manhattan/Brooklyn Divide To The Movies

by BILLY GRAY · April 30, 2010

    Monogamy's Theo (Chris Messina) and Nat (Rashida Jones) are a very Brooklyn couple. He's a photographer. She's a singer-guitarist. But Theo's fear of settling down is exacerbated by a kinky muse and a glittery Manhattan backdrop.-

    Theo pays the bills as a wedding photographer. But he's more interested in a side project he started in which internet strangers arrange to be snapped by him as they go about their daily business. They tell Theo where they'll be and what they'll be wearing and he slyly goes about his Peeping Tom business.

    All is well until Theo starts to fixate on an exhibitionist client codenamed Subgirl (Meital Dohan), who he tracks as she engages in all sorts of sexual hijinks around downtown Manhattan.

    This drags him away from poor Nat, who spends most of director Dana Adam Shapiro's movie abandoned by her whiny fiance while confined to a hospital bed with a staph infection. (The latex gloves Theo wears during his bedside visits provide some not-so-subtle symbolism re: their stalled sex life and latent commitment issues.)

    Monogamy is divided between Theo's Brooklyn-based rut and the fear and thrills his Manhattan subject gives him. If you interpret it as a commentary on the two boroughs--and the plot, alongside cinematographer Doug Emmet's many gorgeous shots of the Williamsburg Bridge invite you to--Shapiro has inverted the perception that Manhattan is staid and tired compared to the bohemian Shangri-La next door.

    The contrast is so stark that you being to dread the time spent in Brooklyn as much as Theo. That said, co-writers Shapiro and Evan Wiener nail life in contemporary Brownstone BK. We get precocious children prancing around strenuously mellow cocktail bars, requisite talk of farmer's markets and a gushing appraisal of mesclun.

    It makes sense that Chris would be drawn to the sight of Subgirl--all of whose scenes are kinetic, well-shot standouts--masturbating in a park off Delancey Street.

    Messina pulls off the tough trick of making you like him despite his unlikable character. And Jones is her charming self in an underwritten role.

    Monogamy is too uneven to qualify as a great Brooklyn or Manhattan movie. But at least you walk out of it thinking that time spent in both boroughs is preferable to unwavering loyalty to one.