“Urbania” comes equipped with a great tagline — “Hear any good stories lately?” — and a curiously quasi-kitschy format in which urban legends are enacted as secondary stories.
It’s a noirish murder mystery, sort of, in which gay New Yorker Charlie (Dan Futterman) goes out one night in search of a particular man he’s seen around town. The man isn’t gay, he can tell, but he wants to meet him anyway. Simultaneously, he mourns the recent departure of his lover, Chris (Matt Keeslar) — a wound that is nowhere near healing.
Through all this, he’s disturbed by events that are either hallucinations or flashbacks, or that may actually be happening here and now. He tries constantly to reach Chris on the phone but can’t get him to pick up.
Director Jon Shear uses non-linear storytelling, throwing bits of something into the mix here and there to disorient us. And it works: The trouble with non-linear storytelling in this case is that for a long time, it’s hard to know what story is being told. Urban legends keep occurring in the periphery — old women putting poodles in the microwave, burglars violating toothbrushes, etc. — but no explanation is made. What do these events, which seem to be literal, have to do with the story at hand? A connection is made eventually — urban legends are fun because, while they may not be entirely true, they’re more satisfying than real life — but it seems like a long way to go for such a weak conclusion.
Futterman is good as the lead in a story that has gay characters without really being “about” homosexuality. Alan Cumming has a cameo as his friend and sympathizer, but that whole sequence eventually seems a little pointless.
There are some effective emotional moments, and it all wraps up in a manner that is interesting, if not earth-shattering. For Shear’s first effort, “Urbania” is respectable.
B- (; )