What if Hurricane Sandy were a mildly anxious, nonthreatening romantic comedy? That’s the question 3rd Street Blackout answers, for better or worse.
The film co-stars and was co-created by Negin Farsad, a comedian-producer and former NYC policy adviser, and Jeremy Redleaf, who previously created a gig-economy-centered TV movie called Odd Jobs. Their comedy of inconveniences adds up to a questionably lighthearted portrayal of an event that profoundly affected the East Coast.
The stars are Mina (Farsad) and Rudy (Redleaf), a couple of quirky, moderately attractive professionals in a smallish tech community that includes characters portrayed by Janeane Garofalo and The Mindy Project‘s Ed Weeks. Much of the humor depends on Redleaf and Farsad coaxing relatable, Apatow-ian comedy out of their relationship; unfortunately, they’re so bland that there’s little to relate to. Engaging in a friendly, Arrested Development–referencing rap battle is about as exciting as they get — hence the plot necessity of Hurricane Sandy, which forces them to work through a squabble.
Even more unrealized than the couple’s relationship is the film’s portrayal of Sandy’s aftermath; Mina and Rudy stroll to bodegas, attend impromptu bar parties, and enjoy the company of local acquaintances who will occasionally toss out grim headlines like “The Rockaways are fucked.”
Their origin story involves a convoluted series of flashbacks, flash-forwards, and text messages marching through mundane observations about a tech-cluttered existence. There’s a thesis hinging on the culture shock of temporarily losing connectivity, but it’s too lightly sketched to justify foregrounding Redleaf and Farsad’s couple during any culturally significant event. Instead, the story completes the unappealing task of portraying privilege during a mass crisis.
3rd Street Blackout
Directed by Negin Farsad and Jeremy Redleaf
Opens April 29, Village East Cinema