Alchemy

World Premiere

USA | 85 MINUTES

ALCHEMY

Drama
The venerable "man vs. machine" trope gets a modern workout in director Evan Oppenheimer's sweet-natured romantic comedy, which poses the question: "What is love-and how much hard drive space does it take up?" Tom Cavanagh, of TV's Ed, stars as Mal Downey, a low-level academic and the creator of the world's first fully-functioning "emotive computer," known as Jerry. Endowed with all of Mal's personality traits (to the point of rooting for the New York Mets and internalizing Mal's sexual résumé), Jerry is, his maker contends, man's complete emotional equal. Not everyone sees it that way, however. So, under pressure from college administrators to document his findings or risk losing his cushy assistant professorship, Mal conducts the ultimate research study: pit Jerry against a real human in a contest to win the affections of an unwitting female subject, then publish the results in a Cosmo-esque women's magazine. Complications ensue, identities are concealed, and the picture's resolution is one Edmond Rostand would approve of-if his 19th Century brain could have ever conceived a talking computer. The word "winsome" best describes the engaging Cavanagh, who makes even his exchanges with a robotic computer voice sound easy and natural. James Barbour plays the silicon golem's romantic rival, a pompous professor who pontificates on the nature of love, while Scrubs' Sarah Chalke fetchingly fights off everyone's advances-until fate compels her to make her choice. It all adds up to a disarmingly breezy exploration of the nature of love in a technological time.