Filmmaker J.R. Hughto spins a sense of uneasy dread throughout most of “Diamond on Vinyl,” his low-key psychological drama about an emotionally blocked musician given to eavesdropping and role-playing, and the troubled young woman who volunteers to be his enabler. But the elliptical narrative and vaguely defined characters seem almost deliberately designed to keep the audience at arm’s length. This handsomely shot indie likely won’t score much theatrical play, but may generate mild interest in ancillary.
After Beth (Nina Millin) discovers longtime boyfriend Henry (Brian McGuire) has taped their lovemaking — and, arguably worse, rehearsed his wedding proposal — on his digital recorder, she tearfully flees the hotel room they were sharing for a celebratory rendezvous. In the parking garage, she encounters Charlie (Sonja Kinski, granddaughter of the late Klaus Kinski), a beautiful stranger who’s extremely sympathetic and solicitous. Indeed, she’s so aggressively nice that viewers can only assume Beth is too distraught to notice the borderline creepiness of Charlie’s behavior.
Charlie offers to return Beth’s hotel key to the front desk. Instead, however, she uses it to slip into the room and introduce herself to Henry. She’s also something of a voyeur, she admits, so she’s kinda-sorta intrigued by Henry’s penchant for surreptitious recording. One thing leads to another, and pretty soon they’re meeting on a regular basis for play-acting and playback that may or may not eventually lead to sexual congress.
Despite Kinksi’s teasingly sensual allure as Charlie, who works part-time as a photographer and model for a softcore website, the pic’s chief focus is McGuire — who could pass as Lyle Lovett’s more tonsorially sedate kid brother — and his implosive portrayal of Henry, an obsessive introvert for whom spontaneity is a foreign (if not completely terrifying) concept.
Some of the more arresting scenes involve Henry’s fascination with now-obscure LPs featuring mundane conversations by a married couple. The albums — known collectively as the “Safe and Sound” series — were intended to be played by homeowners to deter potential burglars by making it sound like empty houses actually were occupied. When Henry serendipitously locates George (Jeff Doucette), one of the voice talents on the LPs, he eager to ask how much rehearsal time was required for each recording. He doesn’t like, and can’t accept, what he’s told.
Trouble is, nothing before or after this revelation — which comes at around the 65-minute mark in the 94-minute pic — is of equal dramatic impact.