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Jake Vig (Burns) is a consummate grifter about to pull his biggest con yet, one set to avenge his friend's murder. But his last scam backfired, leaving him indebted to a mob boss (Hoffman) and his enforcer.
Despite treading in those dangerous waters of 'a newly married couple's love and trust being put to the test' Newlyweds is a surprisingly comfortable film to watch.
Edward Burns is the Writer/Director/Actor/Tea & Sandwich Maker & etc. playing genial Buzzy. With his reedy voice and understated charm Burns reminds me of Gene Kelly - who he physically resembles but for an extra twelve inches in height. He's a regular guy working as a trainer at a gym. He has a prim, young and well-to-do wife, Katie (Caitlin Fitzgerald). We're informed early on that despite the fact they don't see much of each other the relationship thrives on this. We have to be told the fact because we don't actually see it in the 90 minute span of the film. Still, you have to bear it in mind as one of the questions the film poses is rather like that old joke: Should a married couple be Frank and Earnest? ("No, one of them should be a girl!" is the answer they give in Utah). For despite being newlyweds they are safe and contented. Their personalities and personal situations don't seem to allow for doubt and jealousy, drama and, perhaps, passion. And as neither is particularly big on self-analysis or inveterately curious about the other much has been left untouched and undiscovered. There is a lot of talk about 'telling the truth' and being 'honest' while wordlessly asking the question 'about what?' The major catalyst comes in the shape of Buzzy's sister Linda who has come to New York from the west coast to get an old boyfriend back (played by Kerry Bishé – who wins a gold star on her resume for a terrifically deft portrayal of a girl who's immature, unstable, provocative, self absorbed, heartbroken and a dozen more things I can't think of the words for). Throw in Katie's ex husband and her bickering sister and spouse and you have a tight ensemble cast who seem to be having a lot of fun with their characters and manage to present them in a way that allows us to criticize them but never come near to hating them.
Something I love about the film: Burns has developed the Annie Hall faux documentary interviews to a new level that follow relevant scenes to behave rather like the person's conscience speaking. I know Kurt Vonnegut had a gripe about writers telling us what a person thinks but I've never had a problem with it (if a writer can tell us what underwear someone is wearing they can sure as hell tell us what they're thinking). But how do you do it in film? Having every character doing voice-overs would be dumb. So while we might wonder what the real motives of characters are in some of the emotional exchanges the 'interviews' act as a clarifying narrative. OK, I'm assuming they are telling the truth as far as they see it. I'm assuming a lot. That's the way it came across to me. And this has an intriguing effect on the way you feel (I felt) about the outcome. You may not be sure how all of the plot lines are going to unfold but you don't dread a negative outcome due to these personality building blocks that give it all a sense of karma.
This is the most accomplished of Burns' films that I've seen. It has a grace and polish that makes me disbelieve stories of how quickly it was made. Surely there was a lot of workshop rehearsal work before shooting? Good film making just can't be this easy.
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