Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The View from the Bridge: Uncertainty

New Yorkers who live in the City consider the boroughs a whole different world. For one young couple, Manhattan and Brooklyn are not just different neighborhoods, they represent divergent lives. Each possible destiny unravels for them simultaneously in Scott McGehee and David Siegel’s Uncertainty (trailer here), which opens Friday in New York.

Kate Montero and Bobby Thompson look like a nice young couple, but neither is too thrilled to be spending the Fourth of July with her parents. Meeting at the center of the Brooklyn Bridge, they flip a coin to settle a weighty unmentioned issue that hangs between them. Suddenly, one starts running into the City, while the other heads towards Brooklyn, yet through a cinematic device of magical realism, they meet the other their respective ends of the bridge.

On the Manhattan side, Montero and Thompson decide to blow off her family in favor of some dim sum. Unfortunately, their brunch plans will be interrupted when they find an expensive cell phone in the backseat of their cab. Rather than waiting for the owner to call looking for his phone, Thompson inexplicably starts calling the numbers stored in memory, giving his name like a complete idiot. Of course, there is something quite valuable stored on that phone, making them the targets of some very unsavory types.

Concurrently, life is much quieter out in Brooklyn, where Montero and Thompson’s big drama is the lost dog they found on the way to her parents’ house. While her mother might be a bit high maintenance, her entire family seems quite nice overall. Actually, it was not really the Montero family worrying the couple out on the Bridge. It was the dilemma they have been wrestling with (which should be relatively easy guess).

When in Brooklyn, Montero and Thompson are likable, engaging characters. In Manhattan, they are morons, who constantly make the worst possible decisions. Still, Lynn Collins and Joseph Gordon-Levitt display a real chemistry together (in both boroughs), largely improvising their scenes as the fate-crossed couple. Collins in particular shows a real star quality, lighting up the screen in Uncertainty.

To their credit, McGehee and Siegel make New York City look right with well chosen, recognizable locations. Uncertainty is also well served by Rain Li’s crisp, slick HD cinematography. Despite Montero and Thompson’s problematic Manahattan-based decisions, the film’s pacing never flags, even when the action shifts to the peacefully domestic County of Kings.

Ultimately, Uncertainty is a gimmick film in the tradition of Sliding Doors. However, it deserves credit for its vitality and savvy use of New York locations. It opens Friday (11/13) at the IFC Center.