‘Distancing Socially’ Review: Scenes from a Quarantine

“Write what you know,” the adage goes. Ben (Rory Scovel) takes these words to heart in “Distancing Socially,” a so-called comedy set during the coronavirus lockdown. Unfolding on screens in a series of interconnected vignettes, the movie begins with Ben, a screenwriter, pitching his idea for a romantic comedy that occurs over video calls.

One would be forgiven for guessing that Ben is a proxy for Chris Blake, the movie’s writer and director, who conceived of “Distancing Socially” during the pandemic and shot it remotely by shipping iPhone rigs to actors. The vast ensemble of characters includes Ben’s producer Noel (Alan Tudyk), his financier Andy (Andy Buckley) and Andy’s colleague Ella (Melanie Chandra), who works in casting.

A majority of the characters hold Hollywood jobs — save for a poet, a musician and a blogger — and an oddly large number are recently single and boohooing over their exes. Those in committed partnerships don’t get off scot-free, though; they insist that their wives or kids, somewhere offscreen, are driving them nuts.

Predictable Covid-era gags about delivered groceries, germaphobia and computer glitches pepper the script, but the real problem here is the expository dialogue. Every time a new character appears, his or her name and relation to the story is awkwardly stated, and then likely reiterated in case we missed it the first time. It’s fine that nothing major happens in this charmless quaran-com; it is concerning, however, that neither the audience nor the actors, sitting stiffly behind their screens, are given reason to care.

Distancing Socially
Rated R. Broken hearts and bad Wi-Fi. Running time: 1 hour 24 minutes. Rent or buy on Amazon, Google Play and other streaming platforms and pay TV operators.

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