Film Review: RubberneckTale of romantic obsession trades nail-biting suspense for credible realism.
A character-driven take on true-crime fare, Alex Karpovsky's Rubberneck marks a solid dramatic turn for a filmmaker best known for playing comedic parts in indie movies and on HBO’s “Girls.” Though not showy in any way, it could find enough support to justify a theatrical run.
Karpovsky plays Paul, a scientist who strikes up a conversation at a party with new co-worker Danielle (Jaime Ray Newman), winds up having a passionate night with her, and then finds her uninterested in further romance. Eight months later, Danielle's a cordial but impassive colleague and Paul's seething: sneaking glances at her constantly, bristling at the way she flirts with another man in the lab, occasionally needing to duck into the men's room for a gasping anxiety attack.
Though it's clear something bad will happen, Rubberneck doesn't play like a thriller, turning screws until someone breaks. Karpovsky and co-writer Garth Donovan take their time fleshing out Paul's character, from the abandonment issues in his childhood to the awkward ways he now seeks companionship. James Lavino's subtly effective score suits this approach, and doesn't go for broke even when things take their inevitable turn.
Once Paul snaps, Rubberneck breaks a sweat without really abandoning the thoughtful mood it has established. A sequence at the lab, with Paul pretending everything is normal while disaster looms, is especially involving. The aftermath of his breakdown offers surprises without exploitation, and resolves itself far more realistically than thrillers typically do.
—The Hollywood Reporter