Newlyweds Directed by: Edward Burns Cast: Edward Burns, Kerry Bishe, Caitlin Fitzgerald, Dara Coleman, Marsha Dietlein, Max Baker Running Time: 1 hr 35 mins Rating: R Release Date: January 13, 2012 (Chicago)
PLOT: Buzzy (Burns) begins to have marital issues with his wife (Katie Fitzgerald) when his step-sister Linda (Bishe) makes an unexpected visit.
WHO'S IT FOR? If you're interested in seeing a movie like Woody Allen's Husbands and Wives without the neuroses, consider making a date with Newlyweds. Expect to feel honesty more than laughter, and you'll enjoy this intimate tale of New Yorkers just fine.
As I imagine what being married must be like, Newlyweds is all about honesty. The characters struggle with this concept amongst each other, constantly looking for the right amount of difficult details that can be shared without pushing someone over the edge. Or in other cases, as in with the collapsing 18-year marriage of Katie's sister and her husband, people struggle to even be honest with themselves.
Writer/director Burns explores and promotes with his own sense of honesty, giving audiences stories and characters that can be immediately identified with. Newlyweds might not be an outward set of big laughs; it never aims to make a joke. Yet, when it embraces the irony of life's events, and the craziness of people in the worlds of their relationships, Newlyweds is funny in the same way that Blue Valentine hurts.
Shot on digital and on uninterrupted streets in New York, Newlyweds doesn't boast any immediate purely cinematic charm, though Burns does know how to take a regular location and shoot it with some depth (such as with a parking garage, a restaurant). Its clunkiest aesthetic element is the documentary style that Newlyweds embraces, which isn't totally sold to the audience. Allowing characters to speak their minds about certain events, its usage feels more like a crutch. (It also leaves leeway for sudden jump-cuts). Woody Allen pulled this off with a bit more poignant wit in Husbands and Wives, which also has the advantage of being made long before American media's onslaught of fake documentary storytelling. Here, the style is an odd convenience.
Outside of taking place in New York, that's where the Woody Allen comparisons can end. Referencing the Woodster is a fine idea to use when giving a general picture about Newlyweds, but Burns' film is far from an entire retread of Allen's authorship. Burns has gone his own way with such material, without ever claiming to be high brow, low brow, or self-consciously somewhere in between.
Newlyweds is a concerned story from a friend who wants to have a discussion with you about what is most important in holding onto the ones we love. With his low-budget analogy digital presentation, the inspired filmmaker is hoping you and your loved one will possibly have this discussion too.
FINAL SCORE: 7/10