Although arguably one of the most influential people in pop culture today – what with his credits of creating cult classic shows like “Buffy,” “Angel” and “Firefly” as well as being an important cog in the wheel of the Marvel Cinematic Universe – Joss Whedon has not forgotten his roots as the quixotic creator of charmingly odd productions.
In conjunction with his wife and partner Kai Cole and their low-budget production company Bellwether Pictures, Whedon pulled a Beyoncé. Forgoing a regular theatrical distribution, he instead released his new fi lm “In Your Eyes” for digital consumption on the same day that it premiered in New York (April 20) at the Tribeca Film Festival. Much like Rob Thomas’ “Veronica Mars” Kickstarter campaign and the ensuing perks of immediate digital downloads, Whedon is challenging the Hollywood studio super machine by bringing low budget films directly to eager audiences.
“This is exciting for us because it means we get to explore yet another new form of distribution – and we get $5,” Whedon said in a video announcement following the screening of the film.
For just $5, almost half of what regular movie tickets cost these days, fans have the opportunity to rent the film for 72 hours from the online distributor Vimeo and enjoy it in the comfort of their own homes.
And enjoyable it is. “In Your Eyes” is the story of Rebecca (Zoe Kazan) and Dylan (Michael Stahl-Davis) who realize that they have the unusual ability to sense what the other is feeling and doing, despite being complete strangers. This paranormal romance is quirky enough to draw viewers in and the relatable plot compelling enough to keep them there.
Rebecca is a sheltered, soft-spoken New Hampshire wife who spends her days shopping and doing housework while her successful doctor husband Philip (Mark Feuerstein) is at work. Dylan, an ex-convict in New Mexico, is struggling to find his place and start over after being released from prison. Their strange metaphysical connection expands one day and eventually sparks a quick friendship for two lonely people who considered themselves isolated from the rest of the world.
Their bond grows quickly, and no time at all is spent dwelling on the confusing state of their connection. Their relationship and attraction develop as they spend more and more time talking and helping each other out, most notably as Dylan helps Rebecca fix her car rather than get taken advantage of by the local mechanic, and Rebecca assists Dylan in picking up a girl at his local bar. Their constant conversation during times of boredom, however, lead many to gawk at their strange behavior.
At the core, though, “In Your Eyes” is a film about love and long-distance relationships. Despite having the typical Whedon supernatural twist, the story is about two people falling in love in an unusual way and trying to maintain that relationship, much like any regular long-distance couple must in this day and age. But instead of constant overuse of phone calls and text messages, the protagonists use phones as a prop to excuse talking to themselves.
Kazan and Stahl-Davis have surprising on-screen chemistry considering the fact they are almost never in the same room throughout the whole film. They embody Whedon’s quintessential witty dialogue, and Kazan especially pulls off her character’s wide-eyed naïveté.
The movie shows a much cuter side of Whedon than die-hard fans are used to and offers a light-hearted alternative to his larger cinematic ventures. It is almost earnest to a fault and well covered in cheese. Texture comes in slowly and only as the story plods along. However, the fi lm does exemplify a minimalist treatment of simple, but unique, ideas. The writing is a smart, entertaining re-envisioning of classic movie tropes (as Whedon is so wont to do) and the story is anchored by a pair of believable leads who draw the audience into their esoteric romance in a realistic and relatable way.
After taking into consideration the price and rental length, adding the chance to be a part of a changing cinematic studio structure and subtracting the annoyance of online streaming – and the awful buffering inherent in it – “In Your Eyes” can definitely be labeled as worth the watch.