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Review: 'Together Together' and 'Sisters with Transistors' - Modern Love and Future Sounds

Kurt Loder on

"Together Together" is a rom-com without the rom. It's an offbeat inquiry into the possibility of platonic love between a man and a woman. Ed Helms and Patti Harrison are just about perfect as Matt, a lonely 45-year-old app designer, and Anna, a 26-year-old barista whom Matt has hired as a surrogate mother for the baby he wants to ground his life with.

"When I hang out with my settled friends," Matt says, "I feel sad for what I want and don't have. And when I hang out with my single friends, I feel sorry for what I have and don't want."

Anna plans to use the money Matt is paying for the use of her uterus to finally get a college degree. She's a little puzzled about Matt's motivation for seeking single parenthood. "Why are you doing this alone?" she asks. "Because I am alone," he says. (His last romance lasted eight years but "just didn't work out.")

Issues arise, of course. Matt is a naturally warm kind of guy, but Anna wants to maintain boundaries. When he asks if she'd like to move into a spare room in his house, she says, "I think you've watched too many Woody Allen movies." He also says things like, "Let's get some houseplants." But it soon becomes clear that he's not hitting on her. Their relationship is fundamentally bittersweet. Although they'll soon be parents, Anna is unable to share in any of the traditional prenatal glow. (When she convinces Matt to have a baby shower and agrees to attend it herself, she finds herself awkwardly surrounded by his friends and family, and introduced around as "the surrogate.") The script, by director Nikole Beckwith, probes Matt and Anna's relationship more deeply than you might expect going in.

Ed Helms is a master at projecting warmth and concern, and Patti Harrison, who steps up into stardom here, creates an irresistible portrayal of a slightly sour young woman who's already logged some serious pain in life but isn't ready to give up. In the end, she tells Matt that she actually does love him -- "but not in a gross way."

'Sisters with Transistors'

 

Computer music was once dismissed as cold and inhuman, but Suzanne Ciani, a veteran of the electronics avant-garde, has argued against that notion from the outset of her career. In Lisa Rovner's "Sisters with Transistors" -- a revelatory repositioning of several pioneers of electronic music who happen to be women -- we see Ciani at a 1974 art-gallery performance. She is standing in front of an iconic Buchla synthesizer, a welter of knobs and dials and patch cords, controlled by a small keyboard. Addressing her audience, all sitting in the traditional position of cross-legged meditation on the floor, she is refuting the cold-and-inhuman canard.

"I think they're sensual," Ciani says, looking back at her own introduction to music synthesizers. "The machine was alive. It was warm. It communicated. You could move something just the littlest bit and a whole new expression would open up."

"Women are naturally drawn to electronic music," says Laurie Anderson, the perfect narrator for a documentary about this subject. "You didn't have to be accepted by any of the male-dominated resources: the radio stations, the record companies, the concert-hall venues. You can make music with electronics, and you can present it directly to an audience. And that gives you tremendous freedom."

So we see. Among the musicians assembled here is Clara Rockmore, a Lithuanian violinist who came to America, met Russian physicist Leon Theremin, another immigrant, and helped him refine his misterioso electronic invention, the theremin, which was controlled by two antennas (the player never had to touch the instrument) and is often thought to have been used in the score of the 1956 movie "Forbidden Planet."

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