Well this was certainly a strange one - part thriller, part drama and split into two separate story lines that, for most of the film's running time, don't seem to have anything to do with each other. Uncertainty is exactly what I felt when I finished it last night. I've always liked Joseph Gorden-Levitt and he's good here as well, but performance alone does not necessarily make for a worthy film experience. I popped online today to troll for reviews, wondering if I'd missed something. I read exactly two, which follow and match pretty well the theme and gimmick of Uncertainty.
From DVD Verdict, Daryl Loomis wrote a fairly positive review about the film. Chris Long from DVD Town took a dimmer view of the proceedings. As I read through both reviews, the fact that each critic took an entirely different view of the exact same film started to mimic the split story of the film itself. I thought it'd be interesting to post a few excerpts from both reviews and compare them paragraph by paragraph.
The review lead-ins are simply descriptive...
Heads or tails? Simple choices like this have complicated consequences in Undecided. McGehee and Siegel use a strange gimmick to spin an entertaining cross-up of a thriller with a family drama. The world diverges considerably based on the simple decision of where to go on a bright and sunny Independence Day morning. The director team intelligently weaves their two worlds together to get deep into the hearts of the two lead characters. Each story begins with the lovers finding something, a cell phone in one story and a dog in the second. These discoveries represent very different things, but they are instrumental in the plots that follow.
A coin flip sends a couple running in opposite directions on a bridge. Bobby (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and Kate (Lynn Collins) race away to meet… each other. From this point their stories, color coded as Yellow and Green to help the viewer keep track, diverge into completely different genres.
Loomis and Long diverge pretty quickly afterward though...
In the Manhattan story, the phone serves as the MacGuffin for the thriller, but it also gives us a window into the characters.
Yellow wastes no time plunging the couple knee deep into an utterly absurd thriller involving a found cell phone with secret information, murder and lots of chases through Manhattan´s Chinatown.
The writing and the editing play a part in the success of Uncertainty, but it is largely thanks to the performances from Gordon-Levitt and Collins. They exhibit a great chemistry together, playing off of each other and working together to make both stories happen. McGehee and Siegel employed an odd scripting tactic here. They wrote great detail into the action for each scenario, but left the dialog virtually blank. They put it on the leads to feel the scene and speak the dialog that comes naturally to them, and they are excellent from start to finish.
McGehee and Siegel only outlined each scene and let their actors improvise the dialogue with decidedly mixed results. Collins in particular isn´t up to the challenge and as a result the couple´s relationship, intended as the uniting force between the two intercut storylines, isn´t very convincing. She and Gordon-Levitt stumble awkwardly through several scenes that fail to create any sense of emotional depth.
Uncertainty may feel gimmicky at times, but it is nonetheless is a well made and ultimately satisfying film. The dual stories offset each other nicely and serve to give us a clear picture of this relationship while staying interesting and entertaining throughout.
It´s difficult to fathom the purpose of the experiment. Perhaps the stray dog they find with its half-torn collar is part of a spy plot. When that cell phone rings, maybe it´s that Dmitri jerk from Yellow accidentally calling Green Bobby. But this possibility of osmosis between the parallel narratives soon dissipates as both stories limp to a tedious finish. Yellow is so absurd, and Bobby and Kate become so increasingly stupid throughout it, that I´m inclined to think McGehee and Siegel made it this ridiculous on purpose. But if they´re trying to highlight the silliness of a Hollywood high-concept thriller, they don´t provide a more convincing alternative with the subdued but still inert Green storyline.
...and there you go, two looks, two entirely unique takes on the same film.