Tag Archives: Tribeca Film

Newlyweds (2011, Edward Burns)

Newlyweds is an exceptional disappointment. Not really because of the concept–upper upper middle class New Yorker whining–or the execution–Burns has his actors speak into the camera, the characters giving interviews–but because it’s always shaking and Burns, as writer and director, always takes the worse path. Newlyweds is a what happens, at least as far as Burns’s script, when you make bad choices. Every single time.

The film opens with titular Newlyweds Burns and Caitlin FitzGerald out to brunch with her harpy sister, Marsha Dietlein, and her sister’s miserable, sexually frustrated (all because of Dietlein) husband, Max Baker. Burns goes out of his way to make Baker as gross as possible, and Dietlein as mean possible. The audience is supposed to be annoyed with Baker’s whining, but they’re supposed to hate Dietlein. She’s such a prude she doesn’t want to listen to Burns’s comic retellings of he and FitzGerald’s problematic sex life (it’s all FitzGerald’s fault, of course).

No slut shaming though, because they’re prudes. All the slut shaming is for Kerry Bishé, who shows up immediately following the introduction, as Burns’s long lost little half sister. Burns, writing himself possibly the shallowest role in the film–he really uses those into camera interviews to sidestep narrative responsibility–and Bishé had a bad dad, which has nothing to do with the film. It’s just there for immediate sympathy (not for Bishé, because she’s always being slut shamed, but for Burns). Bishé’s exceptionally traumatic visit all gets to serve to make Burns into an even better guy. Bishé’s shit out of luck.

Along the way, Baker hooks up with a twenty-three year-old girl (Daniella Pineda), Bishé hooks up with FitzGerald’s ex-husband (Dara Coleman), and chaos ensues. But it does give Burns the chance to write FitzGerald as a harpy in training and himself as a male savior. A sensitive male savior to some degree, but not much of one.

The worst thing is how much FitzGerald and Bishé appear willing to try to make this movie work, Bishé especially. And her performance is a mess. Burns and editor Janet Gaynor cut magic with every other actor in the film–Burns berating Baker is legitimately hilarious, regardless of Burns’s irresponsibility as a writer, and the walking shots (everyone basically walks from scene to scene Newlyweds, in William Rexer’s nicely lighted Manhattan) have great cuts–but Bishé’s editing is awful. Once the script gets around to revealing all her secrets, it’s like the editing is designed to make the audience sympathize less and less.

But, to some degree, everyone’s pretty good. Dietlein has a terrible, shameful part, but she plays the hell out of it. Burns has to double down on her being awful because otherwise it means he’s got the film wrong. And he does have it wrong. FitzGerald’s good, Coleman’s kind of great, Baker’s a cartoon (as opposed to everyone else’s caricatures). Even Burns, as an actor, is really pretty good. He’s mugging a little, but the rest of his cast isn’t, which provides an interesting contrast.

He just can’t seem to figure out how to direct his script, because it’s a bad script. He can make the movie–the actors work, Rexer and Gaynor are great, P.T. Walkey’s music is solid–but he can’t direct this script. There’s no relationships. Burns intentionally starts the film with these characters having no apparent foundation.

I wish Newlyweds were more pedestrian, because then it wouldn’t be such a disappointment. Burns really should’ve worked a little bit harder on the writing, because everything else is there.

I mean, if he’d actually been able to sell Baker as a legitimate character… the sky’s the limit. Though he probably wouldn’t have been able to sell him wearing a golf cap–Burns, not Baker–the whole movie. Did Burns have a golf cap company he was promoting or something?

1/4

CREDITS

Written and directed by Edward Burns; director of photography, William Rexer; edited by Janet Gaynor; music by P.T. Walkley; produced by Aaron Lubin, Burns, and Rexer; released by Tribeca Film.

Starring Edward Burns (Buzzy), Caitlin FitzGerald (Katie), Kerry Bishé (Linda), Marsha Dietlein (Marsha), Max Baker (Max), Dara Coleman (Dara), Daniella Pineda (Vanessa), and Johnny Solo (Miles).


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Detachment (2011, Tony Kaye)

Detachment is not a message film. Kaye gives it a pseudo-documentary feel and does presents definite thesis about the public education in the United States. Except Detachment isn’t really about that message… it’s about how that setting specifically affects Adrien Brody’s protagonist.

Until the final sequence anyway; it’s one sequence too many. Kaye flubs on an ideal finish because he’s got too many endings and tries too hard to make the important message one fit. Until then, though, Detachment is nearly flawless.

Carl Lund’s script is brilliantly structured. Brody is a short-term substitute teacher. The film opens with him taking a thirty day assignment, giving the film a definite timeline. Lund and Kaye then bring other elements into Brody’s sphere, such as a fetching fellow teacher (Christina Hendricks) and, more importantly, a teenage prostitute (Sami Gayle). Detachment never shirks from its more difficult scenes, even though Kaye does sometimes get too frantic. The film presents Brody with a couple exceptionally difficult scenes and he essays them indescribably well.

He and Gayle’s story arc informs on his arc as the sub, while Brody’s solo arc with his dying grandfather, Louis Zorich, informs back on both. Absolutely brilliant character study plotting.

Kaye’s direction is good, his photography is better. James Caan is the most dynamic in the supporting cast, but Blythe Danner, William Petersen and Lucy Liu are all excellent too. Gayle’s great.

Detachment‘s not perfect… but there are a lot of perfect things about it. It’s an achievement.

3/4★★★

CREDITS

Directed and photographed by Tony Kaye; written by Carl Lund; edited by Barry Alexander Brown and Geoffrey Richman; music by The Newton Brothers; production designer, Jade Healy; produced by Greg Shapiro, Lund, Bingo Gubelmann, Chris Papavasiliou, Austin Stark and Benji Kohn; released by Tribeca Film.

Starring Adrien Brody (Henry Barthes), Sami Gayle (Erica), Betty Kaye (Meredith), Louis Zorich (Grampa), Marcia Gay Harden (Principal Carol Dearden), James Caan (Mr. Charles Seaboldt), Christina Hendricks (Ms. Sarah Madison), Lucy Liu (Dr. Doris Parker), Blythe Danner (Ms. Perkins), Tim Blake Nelson (Mr. Wiatt), William Petersen (Mr. Sarge Kepler), Bryan Cranston (Mr. Dearden) and Isiah Whitlock Jr. (Mr. Mathias).


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The Fitzgerald Family Christmas (2012, Edward Burns)

The Fitzgerald Family Christmas is going to be frustrating to talk about. Burns contrives a melodrama and then proceeds to remove all the melodramatic fluff. During the scenes when–after the first act concludes–more of these melodramatic events occur, there’s a brief recognition of what he’s achieved. At some point in the second act, after three more events Burns should not be able to get away with occur, I wondered if he was just testing himself. He assembles the finest ensemble cast in years–costarring alongside them. They (and the filmmakers) bring Fitzgerald to a whole new level.

At one point, when Burns (as an actor) is listening to Heather Burns speak, I found it hard to believe was able to contain his zeal at giving her such good dialogue and directing such a good performance. There are a couple other similar scenes with Burns and his costars, but the one with Heather Burns stands out. She might give the film’s best performance. She’s certainly in the top three… or top four.

Fitzgerald concerns a large family in the two days before Christmas. I didn’t gauge the time on how Burns split the days in the run time, though they seem about equal. Burns is the oldest son–he lives with mother Anita Gillette (in one of the other top four performances), who turns seventy the day the film opens. Heather Burns is one of the daughters; in the female children category there are also Marsha Dietlein, Caitlin Fitzgerald (another top four) and Kerry Bishé. The other two male children are Michael McGlone and Tom Guiry (last top four). After the top four, in case you’re wondering, are “the next two,” being Bishé and McGlone.

And Ed Lauter is the absentee father. He’s great too. Everyone’s great. It’s just how to measure them–like I said, frustrating to talk about. It’s hard to think of an ensemble where everyone has such perfect parts. Not “good” or “great” perfect, but actual perfect–they will never be this good in anything again.

Burns himself almost steps back into his own story arc with Connie Britton. He also gives McGlone and Bishé a little story arc, which Burn then uses to imply history about the family without relying on artificial exposition. He does, of course, have exposition, but he’s able to layer it in organically.

I’ve got to get to the technical aspects–I decided on the first sentence Fitzgerald needs a double-length response. P.T. Walkley’s score, which adapts Christmas standards, helps in Burns’s draining of the melodrama. The songs imply the holiday and the confusion behind it for the characters; it’s essential.

Burns shoots Fitzgerald Panavision aspect; it’s another angering feature. Some of the shots are so good, so precise and exact in how Burns positions the characters together, they made me mad. His composition-William Rexar’s photography is key–is unbelievably meticulous as to how he presents the characters interacting with one another.

The Fitzgerald Family Christmas is wondrous.

4/4★★★★

CREDITS

Written and directed by Edward Burns; director of photography, William Rexar; edited by Janet Gaynor; music by P.T. Walkley; produced by Aaron Lubin, Burns and Rexar; released by Tribeca Film.

Starring Kerry Bishé (Sharon), Edward Burns (Gerry), Heather Burns (Erin), Marsha Dietlein (Dottie), Caitlin Fitzgerald (Connie), Anita Gillette (Rosie), Tom Guiry (Cyril), Ed Lauter (Big Jim), Michael McGlone (Quinn), Nick Sandow (Corey), Noah Emmerich (FX), Joyce Van Patten (Mrs. McGowan), Dara Coleman (JJ) and Connie Britton (Nora).


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