Disclosure: “Rubberneck” was a film I was assigned to review, not one I chose. And yet I can’t thank my editor enough, as it’s the most compelling drawn-out thriller I’ve seen in a while. It also serves as illustration for why the Tribeca Film Festival was created in the first place: to provide a venue for the small-budget indies which may otherwise not get much mileage. The hardest part of this essay has been to judge what filmmaker Alex Kapovsky did better—write, direct or act.
“Rubberneck” is based on a simple yet relatable idea: Paul (played by director Alex Karpovsky), a forlorn lab worker with abandonment issues stemming from childhood becomes obsessed with a one-night stand whom he’s forced to see everyday—they share the same employer. At first his feelings manifest themselves into guileless misery, but after the object of his passions begins cavorting with another co-worker Paul grows into a jealous, creepy stalker. Obsession begets obsession, culminating in violence and paranoia—of course.
Karpovsky gives a salient performance, not only disproving the notion that directors can’t direct themselves but showing that they may be better at it than those who don’t. The progression of his character is evenly paced both on the page and on the screen, and he manages to avoid the pitfall of predictability.
Despite Paul’s nerdish appearance his affect is genuine and doesn’t leave us unsympathetic. Karpovsky projects versatility unto his character’s personality—you can see the layers. Karpovsky is equally as convincing behind the camera: subtle flashbacks and intense camera angles help keep things interesting and move the narrative along.
The cherry on the cake is Jamie Ray Newman, who plays the hapless—and later helpless—female whom Kapovsky lusts after. Newman strikes the right mix of sexy vulnerability and girl-next-door charm, without wallowing in cliché. Good thing such a significant character was performed right because if we didn’t get her, Kapovsky’s motivations would’ve remained beyond our reach.
After the Tribeca Festival screening Kaspovsky shared his hopes for wide distribution during a Q&A (for more information visit the film’s site)