By Don Simpson | October 18, 2013
Director: Jeff Lipsky
Writer: Jeff Lipsky
Starring: Sophia Takal, Lawrence Michael Levine, Reed Birney, Daisy Tahan, Cady Huffman, Nicholas Lampiasi, Adam LeFevre, Tom Morrissey, Rebecca Schull
Molly (Sophia Takal) is a 28-year old astronomer who has been unexpectedly laid off from her lucrative job. This leaves her in the precarious financial hands of her husband, Zak (Lawrence Michael Levine) who must work two minimum wage jobs in order to keep up with their living expenses. Their only financial lifeline is the family inheritance that Zak expects to receive whenever his father (Reed Birney) dies — well, until Zak reads his father’s will and discovers that most of his family’s assets have been squandered away by his father.
Jeff Lipsky’s Molly’s Theory of Relativity takes place on Halloween, the eve of when Molly and Zak are planning a recklessly naive move to Scandinavia. All they know is that they want to escape their current economic situation, though they have no plans for how they will earn enough money for their everyday survival. (As the scribblings on their apartment wall suggest, Molly and Zak have plenty of lofty yet often unrealizable fantasies.) Possibly perpetuated by the craziness of the uncertainties that haunt their minds, Molly and Zak’s final night in their apartment plays out like an absurdist play. Like modern reincarnations of Samuel Beckett’s Estragon and Vladimir, Molly and Zak while away the final hours in their cobalt blue apartment by hyper-intellectually philosophizing and debating with living, dead and imaginary dinner guests, occasionally disappearing into their bedroom to practice anal sex.
Purposefully theatrical conversations by an absurd array of characters are thrown even more off-center with a surrealist narrative structure that connects the various scenarios like the vaguely relatable vignettes of a dream. Whether this oblique storytelling strategy puts the viewer into the headspace of the protagonists or confuses them beyond comprehension is left totally up to the viewer’s willingness to let go of the confines of reality.
Sophia Takal and Lawrence Michael Levine are perfectly cast as Molly and Zak, as Lipsky cleverly utilizes their natural sexual chemistry to ground their relationship in reality despite the fantastical scenarios that surround them. Molly and Zak are intellectually complex characters who exist on the precipice of unlikability — so much so that they might come off as a bit too entitled for their own good. Presumably thanks to her intellectual reputation, Molly has never had to apply for a job before. Now that she needs to find a job, she would rather just run away and hide. During this fateful night, Molly has an opportunity to land a job at Princeton, yet she purposefully sets up the informal interview so that she will have grounds to refuse the offer. Zak, on the other hand, enjoys his minimum wage jobs with the archaic expectation that his father will always provide for him and Molly; most of the reasons that Zak presents as reasons that he resents his father are easily interpreted as being ridiculously absurd in this day and age.
Regardless, it is Molly and Zak who solicit the most intriguing conversations and monologues. Following their lead, Molly’s Theory of Relativity contemplates the effects of the modern day economy on urban twentysomethings, while also discussing one’s level of happiness and contentment in relation to their job or career. It is also through Molly and Zak that we experience the [in]significance of family [dis]connections with both the living and the dead, as Molly’s Theory of Relativity ruminates upon the shifting roles of parents as a result of age and modernity.
The appearance of Ruby (Daisy Tahan), a nine-year old girl dressed as Einstein, helps even out the dark tone of the film by adding a healthy dose of unadulterated cuteness to the mix. Ruby also reiterates Lipsky’s intention to develop powerfully smart female characters. With their respective intellectual prowesses, Molly and Ruby command every conversation they engage in; they are the centers of the party, just as they function as the keystones of this film.