The main character in the indie romantic comedy Losing Control is a biology grad student at Harvard. As onscreen professions go, it’d be a nice change of pace, were Miranda Kent not the least credible scientist since Denise Richards donned short shorts to play Dr. Christmas Jones. She’s meant to be smart, ambitious, and devoted to her work, but this film, the first feature from writer-director Valerie Weiss, portrays her half the time as a scatterbrained ditz who falls into a vat of her own chemicals while trying to answer her cell phone, and the other half as an OCD-inflicted Asperger’s sufferer who insists on applying logistical reason to everything. This extends to whether she should marry her long-term, longsuffering boyfriend (Reid Scott), a fellow academic in the East Asian Studies department.
The science in Losing Control is, to be fair, there for quirky metaphorical purposes and nothing resembling realism, but that doesn’t excuse basic silliness: Kent is working on the “Y-Kill” protein, which destroys Y-chromosomes in sperm. She’d likely be chased out of town by bioethics committees for creating a project allowing people to manipulate the sex of their child pre-conception, but that doesn’t ever come up; she explains that the project is meant to prevent genetic illnesses carried on the X-chromosome by guaranteeing redundant X’s. She’s spent five years trying unsuccessfully to replicate the initial success of her first experiment, and is getting depressed about her progress in life.
When Scott proposes to Kent, she turns him down, claiming she’s unsure whether their relationship is really working without outside data. So he heads off to Shanghai while she, at the urging of her trampy best friend (Kathleen Robertson, who deserves better), embarks on a series of unfunnily wacky would-be one-night stands with jerky lawyers, weirdo performance artists, and tantric-sex instructors. When that fails, Losing Control often leans on musty ethnic humor for its laughs: Kent’s mother is an over-the-top Jewish stereotype who’s overprotective, a hypochondriac, and wants her daughter to wear a white hat with a glowing star of David for safety. The film’s air of racial anxiety toward China bleeds past the broad into the uncomfortable, whether in a subplot about spying and technological theft, a character whose accent is too thick to be understood, or Kent’s conviction that her ex has found love with a local in his time abroad. “He’s just a little too focused on the Orientals,” her mother yells.