"The lively girl you were when I first met is still inside, I just can’t have her anymore. If you met a new guy tomorrow you would just fuck everywhere, and you wouldn’t care if he had health insurance, or a good job — he’d be your top priority. That’s what kills me: Someone else can have it, but not me. Because I’m here."
Er, not the kind of conversation anyone wants to have on the first day of marriage; what should be the honeymoon period. But that's the relationship grenade Henry (Ben Feldman, NBC's Superstore) drops on his longtime love and new wife Dianne (Olivia Thirlby, Juno) in Between Us, one of those indie relationship dramas that will feel very familiar. And for good reason, because you definitely have seen others just like it. Take a young, white, rich (inexplicably), L.A. couple and fill them with uncertainty of their future together. Add a dose of perfectly-timed temptation from the opposite sex, coupled with some career doubt and you've got 90% of relationship movies that litter the art house circuit.
Unfortunately, Between Us does little to distinguish itself from the pack of similar movies treading the same ground, other than a disturbing need to make both sides complicit in the relationship's implosion. Henry is an indie filmmaker (Of course he is!) struggling with his next project, some kind of sci-fi time travel thing even he seems unsure about. But then, Henry seems unsure about a lot of things, despite the air of certainty he likes to project. His wife Dianne does...something...something like event coordinator? Her career is a little nebulous, really, but then again so is she. She's accustomed to the finer things but adores the life of being with a "starving artist" (Ain't nobody starving out of these two.), partly because Dianne gravitates to successful, creative men.
It's all a facade. After six years together that veil is starting to be lifted. They're both feeling the societal pressure to get married, although it's hard to argue that Henry has the shakiest knees of the two. The thought of buying an apartment together begins the downward spiral, and just looking at rings turns into an unnecessary argument. A sudden outburst of dancing and jeering occurs when they finally decide to commit, but it's more like they are trying to convince themselves of their happiness. The terrible conversation mentioned earlier occurs soon after (Along with him claiming all she wants is a "gay best friend"), and they both go barrelling into the night in opposite directions. Henry has a mini Tom Cruise in Eyes Wide Shut experience with a devoted fan (Analeigh Tipton, sporting a smokin' short-haired look) who happens to be a rocker; while Dianne goes exploring with a wealthy client (Scott Haze) who hooks her up with an actor (Adam Goldberg) in an uber-pretentious holographic one-man-show. Uh oh, successful creative type! Look out!
Banal narration clues us into the inner monologues of these characters, but their actual interactions are even less informative. Director Rafael Palacio Illingworth keeps Henry and Dianne defined solely by their quirks, so much that they don't seem like actual people, just symbols. This is only exacerbated by the predictable path each character takes, including an act of physical abuse that is welcomed by the other just to balance the scales of guilt. It seems like Illingworth wants to make a point about generational angst without actually making one. He does a good job of creating an anxious atmosphere capturing Henry and Dianne's fears, aided by a pair of winning performances by Feldman and Thirlby who put themselves through the emotional wringer. As the intensity ratchets up some of their encounters are truly heartbreaking. However you leave wishing Between Us had a screenplay that showed the same level of commitment as its stars.
Rating: 2.5 out of 5