Newlyweds: Movie Review
With its mockumentary format and dramedy tone, Newlyweds (the latest from writer-director Edward Burns) is sort of like a good episode of The Office that unfortunately goes on too long and tries too hard. The movie is extremely well acted, and the writing and direction gives even the most grating characters deeply sympathetic moments; but despite the heavy relationship drama, it doesn’t hit meaningful insight. Like the two main characters, the film strains to keep things “easy” while obviously wanting more.
The film follows Buzzy (Burns) and Katie (Caitlin Fitzgerald), two newlyweds each on their second marriage. To avoid past mistakes, they try to keep their relationship “easy,” seeing little of each other, and promising to never have kids. But life complicates their plans: Buzzy’s party-girl half-sister (Kerry Bishé) shows up on their doorstep, secretly planning to win back a married beau; meanwhile, they must contend with the disintegration of Katie’s sister’s 18-year marriage, and the presence of her brooding artist ex-husband (a hilariously intense Dara Coleman).
What aspires to be an honest, rough, and funny look at marriage doesn’t present much of a justification for entering that ancient institution: the best the movie offers is that marriage is a way to raise children. Children become a semi-mythical presence in the film— often discussed, never seen— that explain and banish every complexity about marriage. But the problems only return when children leave the nest.
At the same time, Norton has carefully excluded almost every other pressure from the characters’ practically hermetic world. Crazy siblings and sexual temptation are apparently the only two things that can disrupt a relationship here. Like almost all other New Yorkers portrayed in movies and TV currently, money is not an issue: they work fun jobs (personal trainer, music studio owner, restauranteur), and live of off never-explained pre-existing wealth. Where do these massive Tribeca lofts come from??!! Seriously, even the unemployed actor is crashing in luxury.
Also, the movie’s odd mockumentary format ignores obvious conflicts, like an adulterous husband’s casual willingness to give an interview after a fling.
But all that said, the human drama here is great. Once these (sometimes unlikely) boundaries have been drawn, Norton excellently lets his characters and amazing cast run free, crafting performances than are totally honest but almost always sympathetic. The film isn’t afraid to show circumstances tempering our understanding of unlikeable behavior.
Have you seen Newlyweds? What do you think?