‘The Sound of Silence’
Playing in the U.S. Dramatic competition of the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. Running time: 87 minutes. Next screenings: Friday, Feb. 1, 5:45 p.m., The MARC Theatre, Park City; Saturday, Feb. 2, 3 p.m., Sundance Mountain Resort Screening Room, Provo Canyon.
There is no more frustrating sight at a film festival than a movie that squanders a good idea with a lot of pretentious moodiness — which “The Sound of Silence” has in abundance.
The premise is fascinating: Peter Lucian (played by Peter Sarsgaard) is a professional “house tuner,” performing a sort of aural feng shui on New York apartments so that everything — the radiator, the fridge, and the ambient sound in the room itself — is striking a pleasant chord. This is the professional side of Peter’s other research, finding a universal constant in the sounds of New York itself.
One of Peter’s clients, Ellen (Rashida Jones), proves to be a tough case to crack. She complains of sleeplessness and irritability, and he thinks he’s tracked it to her old toaster, which plays a dissonant note. But when the toaster is replaced, Ellen’s problems remain. As he continues deeper into her issues, something resembling a romance starts — or it would, if this movie weren’t so wrapped up in its own obtuseness.
Director Michael Tyburski, co-writing with Ben Nabors, presents an intriguing notion of New York as a symphony, with each street and building a chord in the larger score. His lyrical depiction of that city is finely crafted, which makes it more of a shame when other things — like a subplot involving a high-tech company trying to steal Peter’s research — strike such sour notes.