Molly's Theory of Relativity: Film Review
Sophia Takal, Lawrence Michael Levine, Reed Birney, Cady Huffman, Rebecca Schull
This surreal family drama from October Films founder turned director Jeff Lipsky is deeply philosophical.
Under his new Adopt Films banner, the pioneering indie film distributor Jeff Lipsky delivers another of his highly personal, idiosyncratic directorial efforts with Molly’s Theory of Relativity, an emotionally charged family drama trafficking in magical realism. Being released by his new endeavor, Adopt Films, this willfully oblique entry in a canon that includes Flannel Pajamas is unlikely to win him any new converts even while its eccentric strangeness exerts a certain fascination.
The film is set almost entirely in the apartment of the title character (Sophia Takal), a 28-year-old unemployed astrophysicist, and her husband Zack (Lawrence Michael Levine), who’s stuck in a couple of dead-end, minimum wage jobs. It's Halloween, and in between packing for their imminent move to Norway the couple is enjoying such carnal pleasures as attempting anal sex, one of the life goals that Zack has written in magic marker on the living room wall.
They’re interrupted by the arrival of Zack’s father, Asher (Reed Birney), with the resulting familial spat over grievances past and present proceeding during a subsequent dinner party attended by several relatives and other figures, several of whom might or might not be imaginary. They include Molly’s artist mother (Cady Huffman) and elderly grandmother (Rebecca Schull); Ruby (Daisy Tahan), a nine-year-old trick-or-treater dressed as Albert Einstein; her grandfather (Adam LeFevre), who shares a name with the Russian author Boris Pasternak; and eight-year-old neighbor boy Chet (Nicholas Lampiasi).
Featuring endless digressive and philosophical conversations and monologues, the film displays a hermetic quality suggesting that it might have been more effective as a theatrical piece. While its familial themes are sometimes powerfully conveyed, their effectiveness is frequently undercut by the forced quirkiness and insistence on pushing the envelope via the extensive nudity and graphic sex on display (co-stars Takal and Levine are married in real life).
The ensemble composed of several theater vets go through their paces with admirable commitment, resulting in moments both moving and amusing. But ultimately the film feels as impenetrable as the real-life scientific theory that inspired its title.
Opened March 1 (Adopt Films)
Cast: Sophia Takal, Lawrence Michael Levine, Reed Birney, Daisy Tahan, Cady Huffman, Rebecca Schull, Adam LeFevre, Tom Morrissey, Nicholas Lamiasi
Director/screenwriter: Jeff Lipsky
Producers: Nick Athas, Inna Braude
Executive producers: Samuel Baumel, Wesley Wingo
Director of photography: Jendra Jarnagin
Editor: Patricia Burgess
Production designer: Deana Sidney
Costume designer: Linda Giammarese
Not rated, 101 min.