★★★ / ★★★★
Buzzy (Edward Burns) and Katie (Caitlin FitzGerald) are recently married—both in their second marriages—and convinced that they have the perfect relationship for two reasons. First, due to the nature and timing of their jobs, they have a healthy distance from one another—at least more than what “normal” couples share. Second, they have a rule that they must be completely honest with one another—no detail is too insignificant. The newlyweds’ ideal arrangement is tested when Buzzy’s younger sister, Linda (Kerry Bishé), drops in unannounced with hopes of staying with them indefinitely.
Written and directed by Edward Burns, “Newlyweds” offers a handful of truths about modern relationships and some of them are downright ugly. Because the picture has the courage to hone in on relevant issues rather than sweeping them to the side, it is worth seeing. Also, there is a balance of comedy and drama here that is not achieved often enough or in such effortless fashion compared to other movies of its type.
The faux-documentary style makes room for a lot of laughs. The characters are given a chance to be painfully honest when they are addressing the camera directly. These direct-to-camera sequences allow the subjects to have more depth. For instance, as it turns out, someone who may come across as a bit of a harpy when around others actually has a sense of humor when alone or with just one other person.
They reveal their fears and the things they value. Thus, we grow to empathize with them a little bit even though we may not agree with their decisions. It also gives way for irony because one could argue that if these characters were as honest with their spouses or to someone they have a problem with as they were while talking directly to camera, their problems would likely be solved or at least would not have deteriorated.
Performances from lead and supporting actors are on point. Because of the way the script is written and how the performers interpret the lines, one gets the impression that these people have known each other for as long as they claim. Particularly convincing is the marriage between Marsha (Marsha Dietlein), Katie’s older sister, and Marsha’s husband (Max Baker). Having been married for eighteen years, we believe that their relationship has become so rotten to the point where they cannot even look at one another, let alone share a meal without exchanging barbs. There are moments when their exchanges are amusing but there are times when it just gets so ugly, it is uncomfortable listening to them.
A strand that is most surprising to me involves Buzzy’s sister. I could not stand Linda for the majority of the picture but by the time the third act rolls around, there is a actually a sweetness shared between her and Buzzy. I wished, however, that the relationship between these siblings had been fleshed out a bit more because the visit itself is the catalyst that leads Buzzy and Katie to wonder that maybe they do not know each other as much as they initially believed. The change between Buzzy and Linda’s relationship happens so quickly that upon closer examination, it comes across too movie-like.
Nevertheless, I enjoyed “Newlyweds” because of its moments of honesty and it is brave enough to allow certain characters to be unlikable without having the need to correct or redeem in any way what they think or how they feel. Sometimes time and experience just turn people bitter and they become unpleasant to be around. But if you love them, especially if they are family, you try to find it in yourself to be a little more patient and understanding.