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October 19, 2011 By:
Getting Love Down to a Science
A romantic comedy not of getting physical but of getting physics? Losing Control loses no time in setting itself up as a madcap farce of mad scientists.
For localite Valerie Weiss, a grad of Harvard Medical School with a Ph.D in biophysics, the film's success ultimately may control what happens next in her unorthodox career.
After all, how many scientists burn their bridges -- in Weiss' case, her Bunsen burner -- and abandon what seemed like a prestigious career as a researcher to turn their talents to writing and directing?
Who's lost control here? "I don't know if I've lost control or become more of a control freak," Weiss says with a laugh about her path from science lab to film lab.
Losing Control, in which a socially stunted scientist tries to convert the chemistry of finding Mr. Right into a science experiment, has its local premiere on Oct. 22 at International House as part of the Philadelphia Film Festival www.filmadelphia.org.
Two other festival screenings of the film are set for Oct. 24 at the Rave and Oct. 26 at the Bryn Mawr Film Institute.
Weiss is no nutty professor with a particle gone haywire. Indeed, she has her own Big Bang Theory: make a noise with Losing Control and see where the film universe opens up.
It has already; the movie has a major distributor and is set to open nationwide early next year.
Maybe she's better at alchemy than physics. How else could she convert a little seed money from family and friends into a more expensive look on screen?
More important still is how she changed the image of geek into sleek as the onscreen scientist winds up outside her element and makes a mark on her own timetable.
Weiss has done it her way, with an angular velocity that has her spinning on Hollywood's fast track. She attended Princeton University after graduating from George Washington High School in the Northeast, Class of 1991. "They're holding our 20th reunion at the festival," she says.
She maintains that she never got anything but encouragement from parents, Bonnie and Bernie. And they did have hints of what was to come their daughter could also conjure up results on stage at the Walnut Street Theatre, where she took acting classes.
Weiss and her husband, Robert Johnson, an attorney-cum-actor, didn't need to have their relationship distilled into a science to succeed at life. With their two young daughters, they've gone with the art of the heart, she maintains.
It does help that the heart of the comedy in the film is the Jewish mom, pulled together with apron strings by actress Lin Shay. "My mother loves it!" exclaims Weiss, although she concedes that after one bit on screen, mom turned to Valerie and asked, "Am I that bad?"
Dad Bernie has a part, too -- although there is some question as to whether his screen time can be called quality time. "You can see my Dad in the film," she says. "He's the one in the mental ward."
Giving up science for art, Weiss didn't so much fly over the cuckoo's nest as soar -- and there's more to come: Overstuffed, a flick about "children moving back home with their hoarder father"; another science-oriented project, this one about genetic diseases; and "an epic period piece about a Jewish hero" in sports.
Does Mel Gibson know about this? Maybe, maybe not, but her former Harvard professors know about Weiss' new career and how she's passed the Hollywood test-tube test.
Did they send head shots? Better yet, "They're all in the movie!" she laughs.