Directed and co-written by Alex Karpovsky, the tightly paced psychological thriller Rubberneck is an exercise in subtlety.
Karpovsky, who also stars in the film, is perhaps best known for his portrayal of a quirky coffee-shop manager on HBO’s Girls, but he proves himself equally capable in a dramatic role. Although his character of Paul Harris, a lab researcher, is clearly on a dark path, he remains a sympathetic and very human individual as his mental condition deteriorates. Like Paul, audiences will question how he arrived at such a terrible destination so suddenly, just before realizing the signs were there all along.
Though he has feelings for a co-worker named Danielle (Jaime Ray Newman, who is excellent in the role), their relationship is benign until a lone sexual encounter with her triggers a deadly obsession. When Danielle makes it clear that she isn’t interested in pursuing anything more serious, the scientist’s journey to madness begins. While his initial reaction to her rejection is unsettling, it’s easy enough to dismiss as relatively typical for a socially awkward man who, by all indications, has not had much experience sleeping with beautiful women. However, when Paul begins to stalk Danielle after she becomes involved with another co-worker, the extent of his insanity becomes clear (though the act of violence it results in still comes as a shock).
Equally surprising is Paul’s behavior in the aftermath of his breakdown. Much like the film’s pace and atmosphere, Paul’s efforts to hide his actions are deliberate and somewhat clinical, but his uncontrollable panic attacks reveal the very human, yet undeniably monstrous beast within. Karpovsky’s direction is also to be commended: Rubberneck burns so slowly and so well that it isn’t until the film’s end that viewers realize they have been completely terrified the whole time.
Compelling from beginning to end, Rubberneck is not just an example of a workplace romance gone horribly wrong, but an unsettling look at how quickly -- and how quietly -- the monsters inside all of us can manifest. leave a comment --Tracie Cooper