Reviews of Recent Independent, Foreign, & Documentary Films in Theaters and DVD/Home Video

Directed by: Mark Decena.
Produced by: Debbie Brubaker & Tad Fettig.
Written by: Decena & Timothy Breitbach.
Director of Photography: Rob Humphreys.
Edited by: Jessica Congdon.
Music by: Eric Holland.
Released by: Sundance Film Series.
Country of Origin: USA. 84 min. Rated: R.
With: John Livingston, Sabrina Lloyd & Bruno Campos.

Dopamine, a natural chemical, is a pleasure drug the brain produces during courtship, according to Rand, a twenty-something software developer (played by Livingston, who with his round, slightly less attractive face, is the poor girl's Ben Affleck). Rand first lays eyes on Sarah (Lloyd) in a smoky bar while he's out on the town with his friend and confident coworker Winston (Campos), and soon the chemicals start kicking in. She's a pretty kindergarten school teacher, like a button-nosed Ali MacGraw, whose classroom, coincidentally, is being used to test Rand's animated computer pet-in-development, the cloying Koy Koy. Their relationship is off to a rocky start, however, when she stops to ask, "What are you feeling" just as they are making out. She wants him to be in love before she commits to him. "What puts us above the level of being animals? It's not love?" she asks. Later, testing his sincerity, she challenges, "Aren't I a chemical reaction that will run out on you someday?" Rand, in turn, peppers his conversation with such observations as, "Feelings are limited resources. You got to use them sparingly." Yet, Sarah is hypocritically unapologetic about her one night stand with Winston, a secret she hides from Rand. Nevertheless, she judges him for being tentative, even though he's honest. To justify his fear and Sarah's neediness, the writers supply both with maudlin backstories. Hers is straight out of the creaky Stella Dallas. And all ambiguity in their relationship is dispelled in a too tidy ending. Throughout Dopamine, it's all talk and very little action. And unfortunately, most of the talk consists of thesis statements disguised as dialogue. Kent Turner
October 10, 2003



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