Tuesday, September 7, 2010


Scott McGehee and David Siegel's Uncertainty is an exercise in duality. On the Brooklyn Bridge, a couple flips a coin to decide their plans for the Fourth of July - and the rest of the film cuts back and forth between the two options, allowing us to see what would have happened in both realities. (You may remember the trailer from the now-defunct Just New Movies blog.)

Writer/Directors: Scott McGehee and David Siegel
Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Lynn Collins, Olivia Thirlby

In one "reality," a text card flashes on screen that signifies this half of the story as YELLOW. The color scheme for this depiction leans heavily into the yellow part of the spectrum to give the audience an indication of which option we're seeing - Bobby (Gordon-Levitt) wears a yellow T-shirt the entire time, there are yellow wallpapers, etc. The other "reality" is labeled GREEN, and the same rules apply here - Bobby drives a lime green van and wears green shoes as an indicator. In YELLOW, a lost cell phone causes a series of problems that evolve into the lead couple going on the run from some very pissed off people. In GREEN, the two attend a family BBQ and decide whether or not to keep the child with which Kate (Lynn Collins) is currently pregnant.

This is interesting territory for a movie, but it's not terribly original - films like Tom Tykwer's Run Lola Run and even the little-seen 2003 movie The Beat have explored similar material to much greater effect. Uncertainty never hints at any deeper recognition of what the multiple realities ultimately mean to the characters; unlike the aforementioned examples, this movie plays out with little-to-no overflow between realities and doesn't give a sense of connectivity and importance to the narrative style. Each reality progresses to its individual end, but the characters remain unaware of their counterparts' journeys and don't seem illuminated from the experience. One of the two storylines (I won't spoil which one, in case you end up watching it) even concludes with a shockingly abrupt ending that fails to wrap up massively important plot points which have been building for the entire film.

If you're a fan of Joseph Gordon-Levitt (as I am), then I'd say this is worth your time. He and Lynn Collins - an actress I was almost completely unfamiliar with but whose career is on the rise with upcoming appearances in X-Men: First Class and John Carter of Mars - hold the film together and both give solid performances. The production design gets nauseating at times, with an over-reliance on the yellow and green motifs (so much so that it calls into the question the realism of the world they're creating), and it steps into some strange territory near the end of the film when the YELLOW half starts becoming infused with green imagery for no apparent reason. If you've seen the film and have an explanation for this quasi-color crossover, please sound off in the comments.

There are some aspects to like besides the performances: the camera work is adept, essentially becoming an OCD viewer's dream with a "same-but-opposite" approach to each reality. (Ex: YELLOW shows Bobby running to the right, GREEN shows Kate running to the left, shot from the same height and distance in each.) The film is set in New York and the filmmakers clearly have a love for the city which is translated into the final product. One scene in particular takes place on a rooftop and practically celebrates the skyline in the dialogue. (Side note - Gordon-Levitt is currently filming another New York-set film, this one called Premium Rush. Read about it here.) Olivia Thirlby (Juno, The Wackness) has a very small role, but again proves she's one of the best young actresses working right now.

Uncertainty isn't a fantastic film, and I'm not even going to pretend like it's one of Gordon-Levitt's best. The ending will sour some viewers who prefer loose ends to be securely tied, but it's a stylish piece of work that highlights some solid young actors and tackles a combination of stories we rarely see in the same type of movie. Until next time...

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