Movie Review - Newlyweds

This is the best Woody Allen film this year that Woody Allen didn't make. Out of the recent movies that Allen has done in New York, Melinda and Melinda and Whatever Works, this might be even better. Newlyweds might even be the best film that Edward Burns has directed since The Brothers McMullen (1995). Maybe it's because for the first time this movie of his isn't so male-centered. It's about two couples but there are actually three female characters to two male characters and the scale is tipped to favor the women here.

Edward Burns stars as Buzzy, a personal trainer in Tribeca who is recently married to Katie, played by Caitlin Fitzgerald. Katie runs her own restaurant. Her sister is Marsha, played by Marsha Dietlein. Marsha is uptight and conservative. She's married to Max, played by Max Baker. Buzzy, Katie, Marsha and Max are all having brunch at the start of the film. The conversation is funny and revealing. We learn that the two couples are on opposite ends of the spectrum of matrimony.

Marsha and Max are empty nesters. They've been hitched for 18 years. They raised a child together in that amount of time who is now out of the house and in college. It's hinted that Marsha and Max might have said their vows because of their child, almost as if they had a shotgun wedding. Over the years, this perhaps has created some tension between the two in that it probably prevented Max from pursuing his dream of being a musician, maybe even a rock star, resulting in a life that he didn't imagine for himself. This is opposed to Buzzy and Katie who have actively made the choice not to have kids.

With their work schedules, Buzzy and Katie see little of each other. The two of them even think that their marriage succeeds because of which, because they have a distance, a healthy distance that keeps them from annoying each other. Some might argue that it even keeps them from getting to know each other fully, but they have no disillusions. That all gets challenged when Buzzy's half-sister, Linda, played by Kerry Bishé, imposes herself by staying in Buzzy and Katie's apartment.

She's not married. She at one point had the opportunity but she turned it down. Whereas Max believes he made a mistake by accepting a spouse, Linda believes that her mistake was not accepting a spouse when she had the chance, so she flies all the way to New York from Los Angeles in the winter without a coat to try to rectify that. She tries to reconnect with Miles, played by Johnny Solo, but through a series of circumstances she ends up in the arms of two other guys including Katie's ex-husband, Dara, played by Dara Coleman.

Like with most romantic comedies, the essential issue is honesty. Characters who usually aren't honest with their partners or themselves invariably make decisions that cost them moments if not years of happiness. Unlike a Woody Allen film or the typical rom-com, the characters here don't have to jump through contrived situations. There is no gimmick. Burns' humor comes out of a natural and genuine sensibility.

This is odd because the structure of the movie is similar to a couple of situational-comedies or sitcoms like The Office, Parks and Recreation and Modern Family. It's a documentary or mockumentary approach where the premise is the characters are knowingly being followed by a camera crew. We know this because inter-cut will be asides from the characters talking as if they're being interviewed. The asides will be commentary on scenes or moments that just happened revealing inner monologues or feelings. We also know this because even within scenes the characters will acknowledge the camera, breaking that fourth wall.

Given what is known about the cheap and fast production of this movie, clearly this documentary aspect was a crutch that helped Burns make this movie cheap and fast. It becomes obvious after a while that this documentary premise is thrown out the window, as it was for The Office and Parks and Recreation. Those shows employ the techniques of the premise just because they think it's funny. Burns employs them for practical reasons probably.

Nevertheless, it's funny. All the actors are funny. They all give great performances and Burns is fast becoming one of my favorites.

Five Stars out of Five.
Not Rated But Contains Sexual Situations and Language.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 35 mins.


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