As the new film BROWSE opens, a figure emerges from a blur of azure and white, slowly coming into focus approaching the camera. It’s a lovely shot and will serve as the calling card for a film that is beautifully lensed but that leaves little else to be remembered by. BROWSE follows Richard (Lukas Haas) a recent divorcé who we see fumbling through his newly minted bachelorhood with a predictably schleppy gate. With the best of intentions, he moves on, scrolling through dating apps and hoping to find love again until unexplainable things begin to happen. Mike Testin shoots and directs with a script from Mario Carvalhal that wants to be a movie about mental breakdown and loss dressed up as a thriller. Testin shows his strength in photography but has a dickens of a time pulling interest from Carvalhal so-so script that knows how to bum us out but can’t really explain the mysteries it sets up.
Richard (Lukas Haas) stands in his bachelor pad kitchen unpacking ordered groceries while chatting with the building’s doorman, Kyle (Bodhi Elfman) who makes a habit of chatting residents up. We learn of Richard’s situation, his profile on a dating app, the recent death of another man in the building, and even what the neighbor’s think of Richard’s odd habit of wrapping his furniture in plastic through a rapid-fire monologue delivered by Elfman. Had the rest of the movie featured this frenetic energy or at least this level of information We would have had something to really watch. Instead, we follow Richard as he hooks up with his webcam neighbor Rachel (Allison Dunbar), makes a sort of romantic connection with a single lady Veronica (Chloe Bridges), and heads off to his miserable office job where his boss Daniel (Ken Kirby) demands the removal of three people from his team.
That’s when weird things begin to happen. Richard’s ex-wife calls one day to demand that his incessant phone calls to her stop. Then love interest Veronica decides to put a restraining order on him. Has he been blacking out? Has someone stolen his identity and begun trolling his life? That’s not to mention the weirdo kid in his building that lingers around the pool at 3 am calling himself The Lizard King. All of these moments begin to pique our interest until the script really has no clue where it wants to go with them. Let’s be clear, it is a joy to see Haas on screen again, but give him something to do! Occasionally there are a few nice payoffs, and we can’t get enough of Elfman’s Kyle character but that is, sadly, it. This thriller doesn’t thrill. It occasionally amuses, and it rarely makes any real sense.
I will admit that Testin is on point as photographer, director, and editor. The final moments of the film, on the rooftop of the apartment building at sunrise, are some of the most poignant, nearly making the journey we had been through worth it. Yet with its statement, we have no resolution of the mystery we just saw. So, in the end, BROWSE looks great, has a compelling idea, but really wastes the chance it had to say something with impact.
4 out of 10 stars
|Runtime:||1 Hr. 36 Mins.|