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Writing, Directing, and Producing Documentary Films and Videos

. "Three of Hearts: A Postmodern Family"

The miscalculation that documentary director Susan Kaplan ("Small Wonder") made when she decided to record her 3 friends' unorthodox domicile arrangement that looked a lot like a three-way marriage wasn't in thinking a film of it would make an interesting record of a rare experiment, but that it should be stretched to 97 minutes. Fascination with it turns into boredom well before that time is exhausted and us along with it.

Sam Cagnina and Steven Margolin who, apparently, are bisexual men, were living harmoniously together when Sam suggested a woman should be brought into the equation. Steven went along with it and, after a couple of extended try outs that failed, they found Samantha Singh, a struggling actress from India who was ready, able and of the right temperament.

It isn't long into the piece that we see it's going well, and that she's happy with her two guys, luxuriating in endless attention and caring. For awhile, in fact, it looks utopian. Anyone not obsessed with moral questions might be happy for them.

They are all expressive subjects for Kaplan's camera, and discuss all the shadings, difficulties and rewards of their arrangement. They do so honestly enough that we don't suspect a hidden agenda or creatively devised scenario. These people are living this life.

The parents of the three are brought in for their various reactions, which vary from embarrassment to full acceptance and understanding.

At the birth of their first child, interesting issues arise as to which guy is the biological father, but this is treated with the same camaraderie and comedic interplay that has sustained them so far. They formalize the relationship by proposing marriage to their housemate lover, who accepts joyfully. Sam learns later that legally he's considered a step-father.

By the time of Samantha's 2nd pregnancy, the good part of the experiment has run its course. Steve leaves; bitter divorce issues test the nerves of their mediator; issues of custody and visitation are never fractious.

One can hardly imagine many individuals who could put households together in this fashion that are capable of lasting years, nor ones who would be so amenable to the companionship of a camera crew recording the cutesy ponderings over it. The participants avoid giving an impression that they're exhibitionists at the core, but some of that might be justifiably assumed. In this day of reality TV, one's own reality, when it's as unorthodox and daring as this one is, sustained for as long, might well produce public interest, limited though it may be.

Prurient, domestic, sociological, and/or psychological interest will likely draw audiences. But past the essentials (like seeing it with your own eyes and being clear that there's no untoward coercion involved), repetition takes over, and it becomes too tiring for serious concern. A trend or role model for humanity, this study in alternate life style is not.

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                                      ~~  The Filmiliar Cineaste  


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Sam Cagnina, Samantha Singh and Steven Margolin
The 3 S's in a 3 dimensional marriage.
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