Swinton stars as Rosetta Stone, a bio-geneticist in San Francisco who creates a trio of Self Replicating Automatons through a mixture of computer data and her own DNA, which she names Marinne, Olive and Ruby. However, in order to survive, these automatons need repeated injections of the Y chromosome found only in spermatozoa. Thus, Ruby must regularly brave the real world, having safe sex with a litany of strangers, in order to collect the needed “contributions.” This does lead to one small problem, though. The men Ruby is intimate with end up impotent the next day, with a small bar code imprinted in the middle of their forehead.
In charge of finding out what is behind this local outbreak is Agent Hopper (James Urbaniak), a contemporary of Stone’s, who suspect his colleague is somehow involved, when every man gives the same description of the woman they were last with. With the help of former agent Dirty Dick (Karen Black), Hopper is flabbergasted to learn Stone could not be behind the epidemic, as she is still a virgin. Meanwhile, Ruby, whose knowledge of the world comes from the clips of famous seductresses from classic movies which are broadcast into her room while she sleeps, falls for next door neighbor Sandy (Jeremy Davies), a socially awkward young man who isn’t very good at his job working the copier at a local printing house. Each of the characters spends time struggling with questions about their place in the world, until they all surrender to the magic that is love.
The major problem with the film is simply that it telegraphs every twist and turn and emotion, to absolutely make sure you understand what is going on and what is about to happen. Perhaps this is because Hershmann-Leeson was uncertain how audiences would react to the nearly indecipherable plot, which finds three half-human/half-computer entities who may or may not be able to cross over between the human world and computer world without effort, and exist despite the continual explanation by Stone and her co-workers that anything of this nature would still be decades from becoming reality.
This is not to say the film is entirely awful. Ms. Swinton is always a pleasure to watch, and it is interesting to try and create four separate visions of the same personality. Ms. Black, criminally underused in film the past twenty years, owns every scene she appears in, clearly having the most insane fun with her few brief scenes. And Cinematographer Hiro Narita, Costume Designers Yohji Yamamoto and Marianna Astrom–DeFina, and Production Designer Chris Farmer team together beautifully for the scenes inside the color-coordinated clothes and rooms of Ruby (red), Olive (green) and Marinne (blue).
The film, which premiered at the 2002 Sundance Film Festival, sat unreleased for over a year and a half before making a belated theatrical bow in San Francisco in the fall of 2003, and it clear to see why. It is a monotonous jumble of half-baked ideas which could have been fascinating with some extra time put into the concepts behind the sentiment.Rating: D