Henry (Brian McGuire) and Beth’s engagement goes to s**t almost immediately when Beth (Nina Millin) discovers a microphone in their hotel bed the morning after Henry pops the question. Listening to the recording, she not only hears their lovemaking the night before, but also Henry practicing for the engagement. Disgusted, but not entirely done with Henry, Beth tells him to pick up his stuff from her place so that the two can separate for a short time while she processes the entire situation.
As Beth is leaving, she meets Charlie (Sonja Kinski), a photographer who takes an interest in the sobbing Beth. Unable to stand the sight of Henry at the moment, Beth asks Charlie if she can drop the key off to the hotel room.
Which Charlie does, walking in on Henry as he listens to a vinyl recording known as a “Safe and Sound” album; basically a series of albums people could play when out of the house to make it sound like they’re home, as the albums contain conversations between a husband and wife. Henry is obsessed with them, so far as to speak along with them without missing a word. Intrigued, Charlie suggests that she and Henry hang out, so as to make their own safe and sound recordings.
And thus begins the odd adventures of Charlie and Henry in Diamond on Vinyl. Henry, lanky, awkward and damaged, is just an eccentric sort trying to get over a recent tragedy, and he’s turned to the make-believe world of his records to sustain himself. Charlie is essentially just bored, and up for doing something crazy, particularly drawn to playing pretend, much like Henry. She entertains the idea of becoming an escort, even going so far as to try it out one evening, but ultimately her interest in Beth and Henry’s relationship becomes her true obsession.
It’s a quality film, with wonderful, nuanced performances of appreciably eccentric characters. Brian McGuire’s Henry, for example, may come off as creepy, and he is at times, but the fact that he’s more obsessed with tracking down the guy who did the male voice on the “Safe and Sound” albums than pursuing an affair with Charlie, much to her initial chagrin (she was obviously thinking that she’d bag him and have an anecdote to tell later down the road) sets his character up as more lost and damaged than weird and dangerous.
Sonja Kinski’s Charlie, on the other hand, often has the look of a predator about her, which is only reinforced by the way she worms her way deeper into the relationship of Beth and Henry. Still, while you could look at her as malicious, I think the portrayal is more one of careless naiveté. She thinks she’s just going to do something nutty for the Hell of it, but she’s not thinking of the real consequences for Henry or, ultimately, herself.
Which makes Diamond on Vinyl that much more deeply layered, rewarding contemplation. Yes, these characters can be easily dismissed on the surface, but when you finally tease out what’s going on and why, the payoff can be subtle but emotionally devastating at the same time.