Bob Byington’s “Harmony and Me” is an indie gem that isn’t at all what it appears to be at first glance. There’s a really lame term used to describe low-fi digital movies shot with no script and featuring a lot of talk. It rhymes with “fumble chore” and, at the risk of perpetuating it any more, I won’t use it here, but “Harmony and Me” will inevitably be categorized as this type of filmmaking. After all, it’s shot on bright and glossy looking DV and features Justin Rice (lead singer of the kick-a*s band “Bishop Allen” and star of indie films “Mutual Appreciation” and “Alexander the Last”) as well as other “non-actors” who populate the hip, indie DV landscape. And the film is real, really talky and doesn’t immediately seem to tie itself to traditional narratives. But once you get into the groove of “Harmony and Me” and realize the film is not only very tightly scripted, hilarious, and quite brilliantly acted, you’ll quickly be won over.
The plot goes as follows: Harmony (Rice) has recently been unceremoniously and rather brutally dumped by his yearlong girlfriend Jessica (Tucker), and this launches him into a frazzled, disjointed funk. The film parallels Harmony’s mood in the way it’s shot, and while at first this was confusing, I grew to love the way the film episodically follows Harmony after the breakup. When you’ve been dumped by someone you loved, and whom you thought loved you, life feels fragmented or disjointed and the film echoes that feeling visually. Harmony stumbles around town trying to coax sympathy and attention out of family, friends, co-workers, and random people he meets by wearing a gaudy locket with a picture of Jessica, whom he describes as “breaking my heart by not quite finishing the job.” He clings to this description and tries it out as often as he can, like a comedian trying out crappy new material. Only no one seems touched or moved by his elegant description.
Harmony tries to get on with his life by taking piano lessons and plugging away at him meaningless job, but he runs into Jessica everywhere he goes. But then again, going to places where he knows she’ll be doesn’t really count as “running into” – it falls under the stalking category. But hey, haven’t we all kind of been there? Not full-on stalking maybe, but still caring about someone for all the wrong reasons while knowing they’ve moved on? “Harmony and Me” is nothing if not honest with its characters and in fact the film reminded me of a hybrid of “Harold and Maude” meets “Igby Goes Down,” the latter of which catches tons of flak but remains a favorite film of mine. Both films are deadpan, funny and, in the end, kind of touching.
Speaking of, “Harmony and Me” is brutally funny in the best way. Rather than hit you over the head with jokes and funny scenes, you actually have to pay attention to what’s going on. That’s not difficult as Rice’s Harmony walks the line between guy you’re rooting for and pathetic weenie loser. The film boasts some of the best one-liners and quick, funny shots and snippets that I’ve seen and heard in a while. Yet, the film still manages to be deadpan and scathingly honest.