As the irritating stereotype goes, most female comedy protagonists tend to be great at their jobs yet terrible at their lives. Give the indie romance Losing Control credit for originality: Its hero, Samantha—a biology grad student played by an Amy Adams-y Miranda Kent—is bad at both her job and her life. Brainy and ambitious enough to study at Harvard, Samantha’s pet project is a “Y-Kill” protein, which will help eliminate Y-chromosomes bearing genetic illnesses.
Never mind the ethical quandaries about a protein that can dictate gender—writer/director Valerie Weiss never does, despite being a biology grad herself—because Samantha’s never been able to make it work more than once. And never mind her elite credentials: Our lead is a clumsy airhead with a permanent open-mouthed expression of exasperation who greets the proposal of her longtime Asian Studies boyfriend (Reid Scott, Veep) with a bizarre scientific line that no scientist has ever uttered: Because she has little to compare their romance to, his love for her isn’t verifiable.
To scientifically (or “scientifically”) prove his sincerity—as though his wanting to go next level after what looks like years of romantic suffering weren’t evidence enough—she decides to go on a series of dates with movie stereotypes not even inventive enough to be lame: a douchebag lawyer who calls everyone “douchebag,” a polyamorous freak, one of those wacky performance artists. It’s like North for people who think art-house movies are automatically brainier than mainstream fare, or even those who’d assume a movie about a scientist by a scientist wouldn’t be insultingly stupid.
Losing Control never takes itself seriously, which is supposedly its defense against the left-field conspiracy plot climax, or even its curious racial humor. Having a Jewish mother who insists Samantha don a hat bearing a glowing Star of David gets a pass, if not comedically. Less so the Asian jokes, including a Chinese student whom no one can understand. Foreigners, huh! Indies like this give not only “festival favorites” a bad name, but also, as per its director, dramatic career shifts.
2014 Films: The Year’s Most Likely