Newlyweds (***)

newlywedsEdward Burns continues going successfully back to his indie roots with his latest film ‘Newlyweds’.  Shot for over 12 days for merely 9 grand on a simple Canon camera with minimal crew, this is DIY filmmaking to be sure, but it fits this work perfectly.  The thing is, despite the notion that he’s limited in what he can do here, Burns has got a solid script and good acting to work with, so this never comes off as amateur hour.  Burns wanted to make the film this particular way, and it certainly works for him.  I’ve always enjoyed his work as a writer and director, and while it’s not quite on the level of his very best work (‘The Brothers McMullen’ for me), this is still a very enjoyable relationship comedy that has something to say about marriage.  Burns is at his best when the story is strong, and here he’s definitely got that going for him.  His direction is simple and assured, while the actors fit their parts to a T.  It’s a simple enough film, but it’s a quality one.  There’s an easy routine that the film lulls you into (not unlike a relationship does to people), and by the time the film ends you’ll be glad that you committed to ‘Newlyweds’.

The plot is a bit loose and simple, but it works for Burns’ goals.  Recently married Buzzy (Burns) and Katie (Caitlin Fitzgerald) are still enjoying being newlyweds, but news of Katie’s sister’s marital woes and the arrival of Buzzy’s crazy half-sister throws them for a loop.  On Katie’s side, her sister Marsha (Marsha Dietlein) is having trouble with her longtime husband Max (Max Baker).  Marsha has never approved of buzzy, which causes some friction, while Max is stuck in a rut and jealous of the younger couple.  For Buzzy, his half-sister Linda (Kerry Bishe) has always been nothing but trouble, and this visit is no exception.  She clashes with Katie, takes random men home to their house, and seems to be in town for motives she’s not willing to share.  All of these family issues cause Buzzy and Katie to start wondering whether they got married too fast (they’re each on their second marriages and didn’t date too long before getting hitched), but one thing is for sure…the honeymoon period is over.

newlyweds 2011 a lEd Burns has always been the best person to direct Ed Burns.  His performance here is charming and completely appropriate for the material.  At times during his career he’s wound up in roles that he shouldn’t have been in, but that’s never the case when he acts in one of his own movies.  He seems more comfortable and able to work more to his strengths.  For my money, it’s one of the better performances of his career, though it’s definitely nothing flashy.  He’s an actor I enjoy even in bad films, so it’s a special treat when he’s this good in a quality flick.  The chemistry Burns shares with co-star Caitlin Fitzgerald is strong, and you buy them as a couple.  Fitzgerald is a bit of an up and comer, and one hopes this will propel her to some more lead roles.  As for Kerry Bishe, she’s been slowly building a great resume, starting with her magnificent work in 2010 for Burns in ‘Nice Guy Johnny’ and continuing last year for Kevin Smith in ‘Red State’.  Her work here is excellent as well, as she hits all the right marks for a neurotic sibling with aplomb.  She’s easily the most memorable character in the film.  As for the rest of the cast, they all do fine work, but Burns and Bishe are the main highlights.

Burns as a filmmaker reminds me a lot of Woody Allen, and this flick plays like a cross between an Allen film and Burns’ movie ‘Sidewalks of New York’.  I always dig on his films for their skill and simplicity (if I was ranking his top 5 works, it would be ‘The Brothers McMullen’, ‘Nice Guy Johnny’, ‘Sidewalks of New York’, ‘Looking for Kitty’, and ‘She’s The One’), and this is no exception.  Burns shoots this one at times like a documentary on the characters, and it definitely adds something to the work.  There’s an assured nature to his directing and his writing is consistently solid and witty.  When you factor in how efficiently he made this movie, you just have to tip your cap to him.  I’m surprised more veteran filmmakers aren’t dropping their budgets down like Burns has, since it’s leading to some strong and enjoyable work.

‘Newlyweds’ isn’t a big film, and it doesn’t have big ambitions, but it does what it sets out to do, which is entertain while also shining a bit of a light onto relationships.  It’s not groundbreaking, but it’s undeniably effective.  I love the direction Edward Burns has taken his career of late, and hope it continues.  I know he’s also about to adapt a novel by Jonathan Tropper that I love called ‘The Book of Joe’, so it’s exciting times to be following Burns.  In terms of this flick, definitely check it out…you’ll be glad that you did!

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Written by Joey Magidson

When he’s not obsessing over new Oscar predictions on a weekly basis, Joey is seeing between 300 and 350 movies a year. He views the best in order to properly analyze the awards race/season each year, but he also watches the worst for reasons he mostly sums up as "so you all don't have to". In his spare time, you can usually find him complaining about the Jets or the Mets. Still, he lives and dies by film. Joey's a voting member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.


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