Relationship movies can be very, very big at the box office. Romance is a genre that will forever be loved, and will always be big. It’s funny because relationships themselves run on small things, and subtlety oftentimes. Few films attempt to, or are able to capture the subtleties, never mind focus on them and be successful. People like Woody Allen have made a living trying to present relationships in a realistic manner, adding humor and heart to things that are real in society. With his movie, Newlyweds, Edward Burns seeks to do the same on a pretty small scale.
Buzzy (Edward Burns) and Katie (Caitlin Fitzgerald, Masters of Sex) are a happily married young couple, who seem to have the whole marriage thing down to a tee. Their arrangement involves minimal time together, and basically no fighting. However, when their families, including Buzzy’s irresponsible half-sister Linda (Kerry Bishe, Halt and Catch Fire) begin to invade on their lives, their own relationship is brought into question.
I knew little about this film going in, but I find that these kind of films are almost always good. At least above average, but usually pretty good. Presented in a very low budget, documentary style way, the story unfolds through a combination of ‘fly on the wall’ type scenes, and on camera interviews with the subjects. The technique has been done before, but it works really well here. The actors suit the format really well, and right from the first moment the movie has a distinct genuineness to it. This allows the relatively slow moving beginning ease us into the world of these newlyweds through small examples of their daily routines, that would seem less interesting in a format other than this one.
In order to make a concept like this effective, it is important for the cast to appear as real life people. There’s a reason you don’t see big name Hollywood stars in this format often (other than straight comedy, perhaps), and that is because it’s much more difficult for us to forget that they’re actors and think of them as real. That being said, Burns was able to assemble a great cast, who fit the style really well. First of all, he himself is absolutely fantastic as the charming but perhaps overly mellow Buzzy. He brings a lot of humor and charm to the film.
The two leading lady’s Linda and Katie, played by Kerry Bishe and Caitlin Fitzgerald are also really good. They are recognizable from other film roles and some current television fame, and they are both credible, funny and Bishe in particular is a really complex character who basically brings the primary drama to the film. Their scenes with one another are fantastic, and awkward in the best possible way. Then there’s Katie’s absolutely obnoxious sister and her suffering husband, who’s deteriorating relationship is both funny and horrifying to watch and also adds to the films primary message. It is a little less subtle, but in small doses it works.
The film is sweet and charming initially, but it really shines as things begin to go wrong. What seems like a perfect marriage arrangement, begins to show itself as being not quite perfect. Burns presents them slowly though. Giving clues, each getting a little bigger, and as more strains begin to build the results get more impactful. I found that my feelings as I watched the film were like a microcosm of the relationship it was portraying. I initially felt charmed at their relationship, as Buzzy does. But as the problems present themselves, Buzzy begins to dread what might be happening, as does the viewer. Then as the real truths are finally confirmed, I found that I had just realized them myself. It was a wonderful dynamic, and for me personally the timing of every scene and development was near flawless.
There were some negatives of course, but they were small. Some of Linda’s actions were a little overdone and less believable, but nothing drastic. The film’s pace may be too slow for some in the early stages if they don’t feel any connection with the characters right away. But overall, every aspect of the film was done well, all the way until it’s conclusion.
Newlyweds is a simple, but charming little film that presents good material to credible actors and lets them do the rest. It never try’s to get above itself, and while it doesn’t do anything spectacular, it does everything really, really well. It has a definite charm to it, like a lower budget Woody Allen film, and managed to be satisfying without trying to be too definitive in its message. At some point in the film every character will do something you agree with and something you don’t. That makes for a great little movie, that I’d highly recommend.