Monday, April 23, 2018

Talking Tribeca: In a Relationship

I’ve had the pleasure this year of screening a number of selections from this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, which takes place April 18th-29th.

In a Relationship
Directed by Sam Boyd
Spotlight Narrative

It’s truer now than ever that people feel a need to define their relationship status, or fight back against that desire because they don’t want to be labeled. That line on ever-popular social networking site Facebook can lead to much anxiety and agony for those who opt to publicize how they feel about someone else and then, should the relationship not last, find themselves under immense scrutiny from strangers who may notice the removal of that electronic identifier. Not having the pressure of labeling how you feel about someone else to casual acquaintances doesn’t necessarily make firmly establishing how to define a relationship any easier.

Hallie (Emma Roberts) and Owen (Michael Angarano) are a happy couple, or so it seems. When Owen rejects Hallie’s suggestion to move in together and she responds poorly, the two suddenly decide to take a break, prompting poor choices on both of their parts that are entirely unproductive to any future they might share together. While they navigate what life looks like without each other in it, Owen’s best friend Matt (Patrick Gibson) falls for Hallie’s cousin Willa (Dree Hemingway), and the two connect in a way that includes all the elements of romance that have fallen out of Hallie and Owen’s relationship.

So many movies have focused on relationships that may be typical or atypical, and this film’s title addresses its subject matter perfectly. The small moments that are shaken off as unimportant when everything is rosy seem all the more problematic when cracks begin to emerge in this longstanding dynamic between Hallie and Owen, who immediately feel like a real, believable couple that has been together for years. The decay of their romance contrasts sharply with the intensity with which Matt pursues a flattered Willa, and makes for fascinating if uncomfortable moments when the four intertwined characters find themselves interacting at remarkably different points in the life of their relationships.

Casting is key in a movie like this, and fortunately, all four leads are excellent choices. Roberts, the most established of these four, is superb at rapid-fire speeches, something Owen complains about when it happens first thing in the morning, and at portraying the party in the relationship who feels like they’re much more committed. Michael Angarano, who has made a number of films since his early days on “Will and Grace,” does a great job of making Owen reliably despicable, more concerned with being congratulated for the few things he does right than being accountable when he falters. Gibson is marvelously full of sweet and endearing energy, painting a rare portrait of a male suitor who’s actually all about kindness. Hemingway, who had a similar role in “It Happened in L.A.,” wisely doesn’t allow Willa to simply accept much of Gibson’s courtship, offering up a layered portrait of her own. The cast helps to make this engaging and involving film an altogether enjoyable and worthwhile look at love – and how little it’s actually changed – in today’s society.


No comments: