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New Review: Confusions of an Unmarried Couple

March 30, 2009


If in an alternate universe the Farrelly Brothers had written a script and given John Cassavetes $500 bucks to film it, then the result would have been Confusions of an Unmarried Couple<, the newest by another set of brothers – Brett and Jason Butler.

The Toronto filmmakers have created what I would call the postmodern indie love story for the real world, combining outrageous witty dialogue with scant resources which help attribute its gritty realness of modern dating.

We first meet Dan, played by Brett Butler, when a supposed off-screen brother sticks a camera in his face before he has woken up. A slew of foul language helps to set the tone of what we will expect from Dan. The film starts with grainy home video footage. Luckily, the filmmakers make their intentions clear that it is an effect for the film in combining the video footage with a more assured visual sense in the following scene.

Dan, after having been rudely awakened, sets out to visit Lisa (Naomi Johnson) his ex-girlfriend, ex-fiance, fiance, we are as unclear as they are on where they really stand. When he arrives he is warmly greeted with a slammed door and Lisa’s frustrated guitar chords as she sings about the smelly guy she hates (think Lili Taylor’s character in Say Anything).

We’ve known Dan and Lisa, or been one of them, at some point in our relationships. The couple that is probably best suited for each other but takes on what is “supposed to be a relationship” versus the reality of modern day dating. The chaos in between the two is where we are left and where Dan and Lisa find themselves as they intercut between one-on-one interview flashbacks and the present day drag out apartment confrontation.

There is a great book, “Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs,” where author Chuck Klosterman discusses how every relationship he will ever have is ruined because of John Cusack, more specifically Lloyd Dobler of “Say Anything.” Dobler as the perfect boyfriend has set an unrealistic concept for all females and no relationship can compare.

While this is likely part of what is wrong with relationships today, or at least my relationships, I would say a much more detrimental problem is John Hughes movies, specifically four little movies he wrote in the 80′s, “Sixteen Candles,” “The Breakfast Club,” “Pretty in Pink,” and “Some Kind of Wonderful,” where adolescent sexual dynamics have this way of braving through the impossible. The unattainable is reachable despite class struggles, social issues, or bad boy trouble.

The Butlers get right to the heart of this issue, even making various nods to Hughes in the film, by addressing two modern people trying to have a relationship and confused on why it doesn’t just work. Despite being pretty well suited for each other, they both face the reality of working on a relationship and the effect of making wrong choices.

In “Pretty in Pink,” the characters are wise beyond their years and the main character always made the right choice, despite the conflict rising around her (although the choice to not choose Duckie is still debated today). But that’s not how we really are is it?

We act immature and say the wrong thing and don’t have the inner seamstress in us to make mom’s old prom dress the coolest dress in town, oh er wait..that might just be her issue.  But “true love” isn’t wrapped up in a pretty pink bow like Hughes promised us in our youth. It is messy and we don’t have perfect communication skills. The Butler’s showcase this point in an excellent manner by showing how honest and mature both characters seem upon reflection directly to the camera, but their emotions muck it up when they come together. Instead of the thoughtful people we see in the interviews, we get screaming matches, miscommunication, pride and every other word being “fuck,” because that is how we really act when we are hurt and love.

But some of the charm of what the Butler’s are trying to do gets damaged by the stilted dialogue from the two performers, which shows a lack of chemistry and dilutes the authenticity of the film. If it is no-acting, white-people mumbling that I wanted, then I would watch some mumblecore.

As for the bareness of the camera work – wherein the camera sways from one performer to the other rather than cobbling together various over the shoulder shots – while effective for the film – can get tiring during some of the longer present-day scenes. But I am not concerned that it is for a lack of knowledge. The brothers show their abilities off when  toying with the camera. Dan even breaks the third wall in one scene while Lisa quick calls him out for it – one of the moments where their performances perk up a bit.

However, the film ends with a bang, literally, with one of the most honest scenes of the film. The dialogue and performances are spot-on for that type of scenario and despite my normal hatred for voice overs, it works well in this film, particularly in this scene.  With a bigger budget, I could hold out hope for something a bit more with this witty script.

Also noteworthy is Ryan Noel who composed the excellent score for the film.  The perfect kind of music for an indie is one that makes me want the soundtrack immediately – Noel has done just that.

Oh and hands down best line of the movie: “Lisa – why can’t you love my penis the way I love Pretty in Pink?” Maybe I should have started with that – it kinda sums up the film nicely.

Available soon on I-Tunes. I will add the link when it becomes available.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Yankee Librarian< permalink
    April 2, 2009 2:39 pm

    Well…. personally, I don’t think Some Kind of Wonderful was as strong of a movie as Pretty in Pink. Not that Pretty in Pink was all that original, but Some Kind of Wonderful came at the end of John Hughes reign as the Teen Movie King (and my high school career). Personally, I related to Andy (Molly Ringwald) and her situation more than any of the characters in Some Kind of Wonderful. And I think the “richies” in Pretty in Pink, thanks to James Spader, were much more disgusting and easier to hate as a group than those in Some Kind of Wonderful. Both groups in Some Kind of Wonderful just felt more manufactured. Of course, it could just be that no one can do smarmy better than James Spader and no one can do doe-eyed sappiness like Andrew McCarthy. But… I never thought Blane (McCarthy) was all the sincere. Ducky? Sincere. 100%.

    Oh, John Hughes, how you dominated my teen years.

  2. Yankee Librarian< permalink
    April 2, 2009 12:59 pm

    Excellent review, Melanie–both of the movie and Hughes’ movies. And, yes, she should have chosen Duckie. Completely and totally.

    • oxfordfilmfreak< permalink
      April 2, 2009 1:04 pm

      But would we still love Duckie in the same way if she had chosen him? Honestly? I don’t know. The other Hughes-Deutch combo was Some Kind of Wonderful – where the main character Keith Nelson (Eric Stoltz) does pick the Duckie like character Watts (Mary Stuart Masterson) – and the movie never became as a huge a hit as Pretty in Pink.

  3. popculturefairy< permalink
    April 2, 2009 12:54 pm

    “makes out love”

    maybe this was a freudian slip?

    “make love out” is what I was actually meaning to say!

  4. popculturefairy< permalink
    April 2, 2009 12:51 pm

    Not just the Hughes films, but most films makes out love to be romantic & fantastic like a fairy tale…reality is that you’re doing good if you can find someone who will be your best friend and you can TOLERATE the rest of your life.

    And I hate saying that…because on the other hand, Pretty in Pink makes it into my top films list. (Still think she should have picked Duckie.)

    • oxfordfilmfreak< permalink
      April 2, 2009 12:59 pm

      Hey, at least you caught it – I just went with the flow – and thought makes out, love – it works.

      But yes true, not just Hughes – but that is what I like about this film – it is about real dating – can you tolerate a flawed person, being a flawed person?

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