A note from Lindsey: If you’re interested in watching today’s film, it’s available to stream free of charge on Hulu! None of that Plus nonsense! Just plain Hulu!

Theo (Chris Messina) is a wedding photographer who has grown tired of his job. He decides to start up a side business called “Gumshoot,” where he’ll be hired on by clients to essentially stalk them. The concept is less strange than it sounds: he just shoots photos stealthily, so he can capture his subjects going about their days as normal, providing them with candid mementos of their lives.

The business gets a bit weirder when Theo is emailed by someone with the username “Subgirl” (Meital Dohan). He becomes obsessed with this mystery woman, who hires him on multiple occasions to take photos of her in compromising situations.

Theo’s obsession with the Gumshoots and “Subgirl” puts stress on his already-strained relationship with his musician fiancé, Nat (Rashida Jones).

In addition to its strong performances and interesting story, Monogamy also gets a CUTE PUPPY BONUS. (Image via reeltalkonline.org)
In addition to its strong performances and interesting story, Monogamy also earns points through a CUTE PUPPY BONUS. (Image via reeltalkonline.org)

Monogamy was directed by Dana Adam Shapiro (dir.: Murderball, writer/dir.: My Biodegradable Heart), who co-wrote the script along with Evan M. Weiner (his first screenwriting credit). This film was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award for “Best First Screenplay,” and took home the award for “Best New York Narrative” at the 2010 Tribeca Film Festival.

I was pretty excited to watch this film. I’m a fan of both Chris Messina and Rashida Jones, and I was interested to see the films they’ve made together. I watched this and Celeste & Jesse Forever back to back. And let me tell you, this film, in which both are in leading roles, is far superior.

Messina and Jones work very well together here, successfully portraying the complications and problems within the relationship of Theo and Nat, the film’s central relationship. They’re engaged to be married, but their relationship seems quite loveless in the beginning, and the cracks only become more prominent as the film’s events unfold.

Theo on the day job (Screen capture by Lindsey for TMP)
Theo on the day job (Screen capture by Lindsey for TMP)

The individual performances of both actors are very good as well. I have yet to be unimpressed by Messina in any film.

Monogamy begins with a bit of a slow pace, as a lot of indie dramas do. If you’re into independent films (as I am), you won’t find this pace to be a problem. And things do pick up at Theo’s obsession grows/he and Nat’s relationship deteriorates.

The film is quite beautifully shot. I really enjoyed the staging of the scenes showing Theo’s “day job” of wedding photographer. Still photo montages are incorporated very nicely, too.

I particularly liked the montage of Theo and Nat’s early relationship. The inclusion of couple-y photos of happy times is important to the film because the viewer doesn’t see a lot of joy or passion in Theo and Nat’s present world. It was there are one time, as we learn through the photos, and these two people would be giving up a lot of history if they were to let go of their relationship. This seems to be what’s driving them to stay together. How many people stay in unhappy relationships just because they were at one time brighter? It’s hard to give up on something that used to be great.

Nat prepares for an open mic night, which forgetful Theo is sure to miss. (Screen capture by Lindsey for TMP)
Nat prepares for an open mic night, which forgetful Theo is sure to miss. (Image via blackfilm.com)

This brings me to my favorite aspect of the film: its script’s exploration of the ideas of monogamy and marriage. Can there be happy marriages, or even long-term relationships, without the “spark” being lost and the couple drifting apart? Theo and Nat don’t seem enthused about their impending marriage, letting their parents do all of the planning, and with Nat wearing a string as an engagement ring. Why are they marrying at all? Is it only because they’re expected to?

Neither party is painted as being at fault for the ruin of the relationship in this film, which was another thing I loved about the script. Theo is easily distracted, very forgetful and perhaps doesn’t put enough effort into the relationship. He instead funnels his energy into his Gumshoot obsession. But on the same token, Nat has overly-high expectations for Theo and seems to make a lot of decisions for him (i.e. pushing him to play keys at her show). Everyone has flaws, and relationships take a lot of effort and compromise in order to stay afloat. Neither Theo nor Nat seem willing to put in that extra effort, until their relationship is in full shambles.

I enjoyed this film very much. It was one of my best discoveries of August, and I look forward to watching it again. Recommended if you’re into thought-provoking, independent character dramas. The score: 4.5/5

Theo on a Gumshoot (Screen capture by Lindsey for TMP)
Theo on a Gumshoot (Screen capture by Lindsey for TMP)