08 March, 2013

Macon Review: "Miss Dial" (***)

Robinne Lee and Sam Jaeger star in "Miss Dial"

"Miss Dial" had its world premiere at the Macon Film Festival leading up to a theatrical release this month. The feature directorial debut by writer David H. Steinberg hosts a slew of familiar faces only ever sharing the screen through a split frame. Gabrielle Union, Beth Grant, Dulé Hill, Jon Huertas, Sara Rue and Ahna O'Reilly feature in limited screen time, but the show truly belongs to stars Robinne Lee and Sam Jaeger. Good chemistry between the two leads emphasizes an equally good screenplay, laced with enough spirit and authenticity to overcome the obstacle of no physical interaction between any actors.

Our two leads earn extra points for making the effort to act for the phone rather than the camera. Most supporting players seem to be conversing with the audience rather than whoever is on the other end of the line– something that might work fine in a sitcom, but not in a film that deserves to take itself seriously. Lee showcases her character's insecurities as often as she flashes that incredible smile. Jaeger seems the most unaware of the lens, multitasking and incorporating the set more often than his counterparts. The infill, mostly Lee's customer service callers, keeps the picture moving along and realistic. Some callers seem to have phoned it in (sorry!), others contributing some of the film's brightest moments. Dulé Hill and Beth Grant are briefly hilarious, but Gabrielle Union steals the show with her hands-free scenery-chewing take. 

A lack of texture in both the story and its characters is most distracting in films with simple, focused premises such as this. Moments like Sara Rue's messy toothbrushing or Jaeger's ripping on Olive Garden contribute more to the film's disposition than many of the callers do. Though lacking in much individuality, Steinberg's screenplay does an excellent job constructing the film's emotional nature. An emphasis on basic human connection is a wonderful basis for, but not exclusive to, a romantic comedy.

Warmly received in Macon, "Miss Dial" will no doubt be a hit with audiences in cinemas and on demand this month.

3 out of 5 stars.

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