Director: Alex Karpovsky
In Rubberneck, director Alex Karpovsky also stars as Paul, in the familiar movie role of an obsessed stalker. Yet the film is sufficiently subdued and character driven that it manages to be more engaging than the typical entry in this genre.
Paul has a brief fling with co-worker Danielle (Jaime Ray Newman). After a weekend together, however, Danielle is clearly tired of Paul, who remains willfully ignorant of her disinterest. Rather than having Paul immediately transform into the psychotic stalker, however, Rubberneck gives us a series of painful and awkward moments as Paul loses control.
Rubberneck is one of those rare films that is actually better than the description makes it sound. Aside from the stalker cliche, we learn that Paul has abandonment issues regarding his mother. This type of Freudian back story has been used so many times in the last 50 years or so of cinematic history that it has the potential to be painfully familiar. Yet here it actually seems fresh and believable. Karpovsky comes across like a real person rather than a foaming-at-the-mouth psycho. Although his nerdy, repressed character is never quite sympathetic, he is at least believable and human.
Part of Rubberneck’s authenticity comes from the focus of the workplace environment. Paul, Danielle and a dozen or so other people work in a claustrophobic lab that conducts tests on guinea pigs. Karpovsky (as director) does an admirable job at capturing the low key, everyday interactions that seem trivial but carry potent emotional undercurrents. For example, we see Paul trying to appear casual as he watches Danielle flirt with another co-worker. We can sense his inner turmoil, but Karpovsky (the actor) doesn’t overplay this. He never quite loses control -until he does.
Rubberneck is a small, indie film and is not exactly momentous or groundbreaking. Yet it’s a fascinating and fresh look at a subject that most movies reduce to near parody.
Alex Karpovsky has been busy with interesting, low key indie films in the last few years, in the role of actor and/or director. I also enjoyed his performance in Supporting Characters, an inside look at the making of a film.