Movie Review: Confusions Of An Unmarried Couple
Written by and starring Brett M. Butler and co-directed with his brother Jason, Confusions of an Unmarried Couple contains a lot of smart, as well as smartly stupid, dialogue about relationships. Brett is Dan, a young slacker who walked out on his girlfriend Lisa (Naomi Johnson) after catching her in the middle of a lesbian sexual encounter. (Don’t get excited, you don’t get to see it.) After several months have passed by, Dan finally returns and confronts his ex for what is essentially the equivalent of a filmed play.
Most of the action takes place in the tiny former lovenest as the pair argue back and forth about who was really at fault for the relationship falling apart. You would immediately assume it’s Lisa since she’s the one who had the affair, but as secrets are slowly revealed we find out that that assumption is wrong. Not that there’s any major plot twists and turns along the way — the film has a sort of “what you see is what you get” quality to it — but the script does a fairly good job of avoiding clunky exposition to get out the facts of the relationship. The arguments, though broken up by unnecessary title cards, tend to develop and play out organically through the characters’ natural evolution.
The film is primarily a guy’s affair, which is obvious since it’s the product of two brothers, so it’s also not a shock that it all is mostly carried on star Brett Butler’s shoulders. But the movie never comes across as a mere vanity piece. As Dan, Brett is very amiable and likeable in a sort of unlikeable way. Since he wrote for himself the juciest part, it’s nice that you never get the feeling that he’s trying to upstage his female co-star or that he’s trying to dominate the proceedings even though he gets more screentime. Although a Canadian, Dan seems like he’d be just as comfortable hanging out in Richard Linklater’s Austin, TX, especially when he’s laying the bullshit philosophizing about relationships on extra thick and creamy.
Written by a guy and directed by two, Naomi Johnson’s Lisa surprisingly holds up pretty well next to Dan, although sometimes she feels as if she speaks the way guys want women to speak. The script does sometime go too easily for the sex talk a little too much, eventually culminating in an awkward discussion about threesomes that feels wildly out of place from the truthiness of the rest of the film. The film works best when it’s discoursing on the nature of relationships with the occasional raunchy barb thrown out.
The film is also somewhat hampered by uninteresting cinematography. In a low-budget, DIY affair such as this, one doesn’t expect masterful actor/camera choreography like the classic apartment fight scene in Jean Luc Godard’s Contempt. But Confusions relies too much on the same shot: Dan and Lisa stand in a room arguing and the camera simply swings back and forth between them to focus on whoever is doing the speaking. While many times reaction shots are more effective than delivery shots, you won’t find much, if any, of them here, building up a visual monotony that, as engaing as the actors are, they can’t break through.
But luckily, the characters are engaging and provide ample entertainment as they navigate the trainwreck of their relationship.
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