The extended Bluefield clan, Zack (Lawrence Michael Levine), Molly (Sophia...

The extended Bluefield clan, Zack (Lawrence Michael Levine), Molly (Sophia Takal), and Asher (Reed Birney), react with beguilement over a precocious nine-year-old visitor in a scene from Jeff Lipsky's "Molly's Theory of Relativity," an Adopt Films release. Credit: Adopt Films

The heroine of Jeff Lipsky's "Molly's Theory of Relativity" is an unemployed astrophysicist (Sophia Takal) living in Long Island City. Her husband, Zack (Lawrence Michael Levine), works two jobs, one at Burger King and one driving an airport shuttle. They speak in epigrams; their relationship with Zack's father (Reed Birney) amounts to primal-scream therapy. If their situation seems to strain the conventions of domestic fiction -- they are also preparing to immigrate to Norway, on Halloween -- it's because they are vehicles for ideas rather than emotions.

Molly has lost her museum job over politics, not competence; Zack is a believer that work is noble no matter what you do. They represent the social-economic crises of their time, a disillusion with America, the difficulties of family life. And they broadcast their ideas like the heroes of Stalin-era social-realism, replete with sex and nudity.

To say that "Molly's Theory" is squirm-inducing is to put it mildly. But with his fifth narrative feature film, Plainview-raised writer-director Lipsky has established both a determined style and objective. He's not interested in emulating other filmmakers or their idea of truth and takes a rather gleeful satisfaction in defying cinematic convention. His exploration of families, and sex and self involve extreme situations and a stripping away of social niceties even within the most intimate relationships.

In their kitchen, the living and the dead co-mingle, just as they might in our consciousness. A trick-or-treating neighbor girl (the wonderful Daisy Tahan) arrives dressed as Albert Einstein, spouting wisdom. For all of "Molly's" naturalistic, low-budget indie ambience, the film is a fantastical curiosity, whose indulgences will try one's patience. At the same time, it might just stick to the mind, like Halloween candy to the roof of the mouth.

PLOT Young New York couple wrestles with whether to immigrate to Norway, within a family crucible inhabited by the living and the dead. Unrated (profanity, nudity, explicit sex).

CAST Sophia Takal, Reed Birney, Lawrence Michael Levine, Daisy Tahan


BOTTOM LINE Uncomfortable and indulgent, but also perversely fascinating.

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