“I can’t date another introverted pessimist with intimacy issues.”
Written and directed by Michael K. Feinstein, The Browsing Effect follows a group of L.A. friends as they navigate dating and relationships. The title is a reference to the plethora of dating apps that not only guide singles to find their perfect match but also overwhelm them with possibilities. Improv actress/Uber driver Melissa (Megan Guinan) and her boyfriend, soon-to-be fiancee, James (Drew Fonteiro) have just moved in together but soon realize that they’re not ready for a lifelong commitment. Ben (Josh Margolin) and Rachel (Nikki SooHoo) recently had a nasty break-up and move on in very different ways. They all find themselves on dating apps searching for their next match or someone to fill the void.
There are quite a number of indie films about the L.A. dating scene. So what makes The Browsing Effect one stand out? It re-imagines the awkwardness of dating by acting out the scenarios in a unique way. For example, Ben begins messaging a potential date on Tinder. The woman appears in his room seductively on his dresser, reading out her responses to him. In another scene, Melissa’s blind date opens a closet door to reveal his ex-girlfriend who then explains to Melissa what went wrong in their relationship. A less effective scene includes Rachel in bed with her latest fling and their younger selves appear to ask questions.
There were some enjoyable scenes but overall The Browsing Effect was a mixed bag. I didn’t care about any of the characters. The biggest exception was Ben who has a sweet yet complicated love story he has with Gabriela (Gabriela Lopez). I wanted to know more about Lawrence (Larry Powell), the only gay character in the story, who avoids dating apps and stalks his love interest in real life instead. There were plot gaps and several attempts at comedy that fell flat. The dating app used in the film is branded “Timber” yet all the actors say “Tinder”. Even the Spanish spoken at Gabriela’s birthday party was bad. If you’re like me and don’t care for improv, the scenes with the improv groups Diva Cup and Pizza Hat will be a total wash.