Cinema Signal:

Love Scents:
How Your Natural Pheromones Influence Your Relationships, Your Moods, and Who You Love

. "Dopamine"

This film takes the chemistry behind romantic attraction as the leading ingredient in the struggle between the sexes. It puts a guy who is too intellectual for his own good together with a gal who relates on the sensual level.

The guy is Rand (John Livingston), a computer graphics designer working with two partners on a 3-D animated bird figure they call Koy Koy that learns and responds to voiced expressions, taking the concept of interactivity to a higher level. They're doing the breakthrough work for a Japanese client who isn't paying them very much for their development efforts. When the client asks them to install the software in a kindergarten class for a real world test of the product, Rand balks, but his partners in the San Francisco startup venture, Winston (Bruno Campos) and Johnson (Reuben Grundy) recognize the wisdom behind the request and override Rand's objections.

Rand and Winston take time out for a beer at the local bar as Sarah (Sabrina Lloyd) sits at the bar, alone. Rand's and her eyes meet and lock in one of those love at first sight moments. Rand goes completely shy, befitting his nerdish nature. Sarah comes over and is immediately communicating with Winston who winds up taking her home and to bed. Following the sexual encounter, she suddenly bolts out of Winston's apartment, leaving the quickie expert alone and dumbfounded.

But, she's not out of our guys' lives. It turns out she's one of the teachers of the class chosen for the software test (hey, life is full of coincidences). She challenges the team's assumptions about their creation, demonstrating her own analytic power, but also makes her feelings for Rand known. This leads to a connection that is short-circuited by Rand's definition of his feelings for her along chemical and biological lines. When they finally get down to it, he's sounding like a medical journal. Is it only about pheromones and dopamine?

She's turned off, making it clear that she's looking for a whole other level of emotion to fill a certain hole in her life. She doesn't need a treatise on natural amphetamines (dopamine) and pheromones. Will Rand come to his senses before he loses this gem of a potential partner?

The screenplay for "Dopamine" is another team effort. As its genesis is described in the press info, writers Mark Decena and Timothy Breitbach, two guys who are apparently left-right brainers with computer programming knowledge and the analytic tools that implies, each took different characters to develop from the technological project into unprogrammed emotional exploration.

But, the scientific aspect is never left behind, and the movie, directed by Decena, deals with potential mates, one of whom might understand the world in terms of electro-chemical balances and the other prone to follow simpler instinctual impulses. What this story develops, then, is a challenging and original complexity that could be a bit off-putting if you're not of a new-age mindset. It's not fair fare for the more traditional romance buff who doesn't come to the theatre for mental exercises. For them, there's "Le Divorce" and "Alex & Emma."

Thanks in large part to the bright beauty of the female involved, namely Sabrina Lloyd (emerging --we hope-- from a mostly TV background), the dichotomies and analyses are held in check by the romance. She's seriously magnetic, pheromonally and otherwise (how else to explain my heartbeat?). The male cast is uniformly engaging and, despite the technical astuteness, they are real guys with whom you'd have a beer anytime. In their varied behaviors they humanize the gender issues as well as the science that explains some of it.

Chemicals may rule but drama prevails, and it's a good thing the guys who put this together knew how to proportion that.

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                                      ~~  Jules Brenner  

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Rueben Grundy, John Livingston, Sabrina Lloyd and Bruno Campos
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