Freelance wedding photographer Theo (Messina) seems to have it all: a Brooklyn brownstone; a scruffy beard of hipster entitlement; a beautiful, guitar-strumming fiance named Nat (Jones). Trouble rears its head when a gorgeous client---alias: Subgirl (Dohan)---hires him to take faux-surveillance photos of her performing public sex acts. When a staph infection consigns Nat to a hospital bed, Theo neglects her to stalk and fantasize about Subgirl. Desires are thwarted, open-mike nights are missed, and prematrimonial anxieties reach their boiling point.
Give writer-director Dana Adam Shapiro credit: His first fiction feature (after codirecting the Oscar-nominated doc Murderball) isn't your standard Sundance quirkfest or kitchen-sink drama. Instead, it's an odd hybrid of marriage parable and voyeuristic thriller. Worries over a sexless marriage send Theo down a rabbit hole of illicit urges, channeled via Photoshop and a telephoto lens, and culminating in a mammoth bathroom-stall wank-off. But while Shapiro does a fine job of emulating kink classics like Blow Out, his film lacks one element that De Palma wouldn't have been caught dead without: a sense of humor. Instead of becoming a tongue-in-cheek critique of fidelity, Monogamy simply plays it straight, which exposes the absurdity of its overconceived premise and keeps us from indulging in Theo's (not-so-) bad behavior. For a movie so dedicated to one-on-one relationships, this strangely inert drama fails to inspire commitment.
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