Scott McGehee and David Siegel wrote and directed a funky neo-noir called "Suture" (1993) which hinged on a central gimmick. Brothers Vincent and Clay look virtually identical. They think so. Everyone else thinks so and says so. The fact that Vincent (Michael Harris) is white and Clay (Dennis Haysbert) is black doesn't change anything. Nobody can tell them apart. This isn't played as a tongue-in-cheek joke but with deadpan solemnity. It doesn't really mean anything as far as I can recall, but it adds just enough of an exotic flavor to make the stylish but fairly standard a memorable one.
The filmmaking team has come up with another gimmick for "Uncertainty" (2009.) 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.
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. Green settles for a more leisurely pace as the lovers drive to Kate's mother's house for a family dinner where domestic tensions gradually simmer.
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.
It's difficult to fathom the purpose of the experiment. As Bobby and Kate race for their lives through Chinatown, a bit of the tension bleeds into the more mundane Green storyline. 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.
Both tales are shot with a roaming hand-held camera but cinematographer Rain Li dials up the action in Yellow with more ratchet zooms and editor Paul Zucker sprinkles in a big dose of jittery jump cuts. It doesn't make the story any more interesting, but it does provide a clear visual demarcation beyond the choice of colors.
Perhaps "Uncertainty" is a metaphor for the writing process. You start with a blank page then you have to make a decision, any decision, and just follow it as far as you can. In this case, they make two decisions only to ultimately discover that neither of them is all that productive. It beats making no decision at all, though, which is something both Bobbys and Kates realize at the end when confronted with one of the most important choices of their life. But they could have saved us all a dull slog if they'd just stayed on the damn bridge and made up their minds at the beginning.
The film is presented in a 2.35:1 anamorphic transfer. The interlaced transfer is of average quality. Color contrast isn't particularly sharp but image resolution is solid.
The DVD is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. The audio mix is fairly straightforward. I felt the sometimes-overwrought mix (in the Yellow story) was mixed too loudly relative to the dialogue but otherwise it is solid. Optional English and Spanish subtitles support the English audio.
The Script/Screen Comparison feature shows the original script pages without dialogue, as they were written along with a few notes about how the actors made some adjustments as they improvised their dialogue after which you have the option of watching the scene as filmed. There are only two short examples provided.
The DVD also includes Audition footage of the two leads (5 min.), A Stills Gallery, a Trailer and a TV Spot.
As usual IFC provides several Forced Trailers that you have to wade through every time you boot up the disc. On many systems you will not be able to escape them and may have to Step or Fastforward through them. As we have noted before, Forced Trailers are an insult to the viewer who has spent his or her time and money to watch your disc. I don't care how much you want to promote your "small" films, it's simply disrespectful. Trailers belong in the Extras section where viewers can choose to watch them. This automatically rates a "1" for Extras.
So-called gimmick movies get a bad rap. "Russian Ark" was dismissed because it was "just" about staging a 90-minute shot. What the hell do you mean "just," dingbat? It's a matter of whether or not the gimmick works. In "Suture" McGehee and Siegel made it work. In "Uncertainty" not so much.