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Monogamy -- Film Review

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This debut narrative feature from documentary filmmaker Dana Adam Shapiro ("Murderball") takes two oft-explored cinematic topics -- voyeurism and commitment issues -- and blends them into an arty, turgid whole. Depicting the inner crisis of a photographer who finds that his work begins affecting his feelings toward his girlfriend, "Monogamy" doesn't manage to find anything particularly new to say, and says it very, very slowly.

The film recently received its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival.

Theo (Chris Messina, who played a far more supportive romantic partner in last year's "Julie & Julia") is a photographer who makes a modest if unsatisfying living shooting weddings. To satisfy his more artistic impulses, he starts a side business called Gumshoot, in which he takes surreptitious, surveillance-style photos of willing clients.

He gets more than he bargained for in the form of Subgirl (Meital Dohan), a beautiful blonde who pleasures herself at a public park for the benefit of his camera.

Faster than you can say "Blow-Up," he becomes obsessed with this mysterious free spirit, much to the consternation of his fiancee, Nat (Rashida Jones), an aspiring folksinger-songwriter. When she subsequently injures herself and winds up in the hospital with a nasty infection, Theo is free to pursue his newfound fixation and entertain serious doubts about his relationship.

The filmmaker isn't subtle about his inspirations -- there's a jokey if subtle reference to "The Conversation" -- but he doesn't seem particularly interested in exploring his themes in much depth. And while the depiction of the couple's comfortable relationship has the casual rhythms of truth, it isn't compelling enough to command attention.

Shot with handheld cameras in numerous sections of downtown Manhattan and Brooklyn, the film captures its hipster milieu with visual panache. In his first leading role, Messina is thoroughly believable conveying his character's inner confusion, and Jones brings beautifully subtle grace notes to her less showy role. But "Monogamy" too often comes close to monotony.

Venue: Tribeca Film Festival
Production: Big LEO, Renart Films
Cast: Chris Messina, Rashida Jones, Meital Dohan, Ivan Martin, Neal Huff
Director: Dana Adam Shapiro
Screenwriters: Dana Adam Shapiro, Evan M. Wiener
Producers: Jeffrey Mandel, Randy Manis, Tom Heller, Dana Adam Shapiro
Executive producers: Chuck Goodgal, Tim Duff, Julie Christeas, Jeff Prosserman
Director of photography: Doug Emmett
Editor: Mollie Goldstein
Production designer: Timothy Whidbee
Costume designer: Lisa Grace Hennessy
Music: Jamie Saft
No rating, 96 minutes