The Browsing Effect is a new ensemble romantic comedy film written and directed by Michael K. Feinstein. A satirical look at modern romance, the movie is about a group of friends whose friendships are tested when they enter the world of online dating, causing both jealousy and self-doubt.
The most interesting thing about this film is the message that it has to say. The world of modern romance is definitely very weird, and this movie says some things that many people likely have in the back of their minds. If nothing else, this film should be praised for staring society in the face and saying how absurd the idea of romance is.
That being said, the movie doesn’t really do anything with the interesting ideas it has. The story lacks any significant conflict, and as such, feels relatively small and insignificant. By no means did this film need to present an “end of the world” situation, but the characters’ online dating actions could have been far more interesting if the consequences were more significant.
One of the biggest issues with this movie is an issue that typically plagues ensemble films: lackluster character development. Since there isn’t one clear protagonist, it’s hard to truly connect with any of the characters. However, perhaps more damning is the fact that all of them are annoying. They just don’t have any likable or sympathetic qualities about them, so you couldn’t care less about what happens to them.
Also frustrating is the fact that the movie just isn’t particularly funny. You can easily tell when the film is trying to elicit a laugh, because it often tries way too hard, and almost none of the gags land as intended. There are a handful of moments that may make you crack a smile, but those are the moments that feel natural and witty, not those in which the movie wants you to laugh.
In terms of acting, the film wasn’t all that impressive, although none of the actors do an outright bad job. Megan Guinan and Josh Margolin both show a lot of potential. Although their characters don’t give them a lot of room with which they can work, they are both relatively charming and do liven up the movie on a few occasions. The rest of the cast isn’t particularly memorable.
On a technical level, the film wasn’t particularly good either. It is quite obvious that the movie was made on a micro-budget, and this is distracting at times, especially when the film tries to do something wacky and surreal. Additionally, the movie incorporates mockumentary-style interviews with the characters even though the rest of the film obviously isn’t a mockumentary. This decision, like many others made by the filmmakers, is questionable.
Overall, The Browsing Effect wastes a potentially very good premise with a story that is bland and unfunny. Had the script went through a few more drafts, it would have been much more interesting.
The Browsing Effect is on VOD beginning April 9.