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
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
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.
~~ Jules Brenner