Mar 27, 2008

Confusions of an Unmarried Couple (2007): B-

The unreleased indie dramedy Confusions of an Unmarried Couple functions as coach to the titular quarreling couple, almost rigorously evenhanded and unbiased as it details the opposing viewpoints and recollections of a (possibly) former couple now separated for several months, Dan (writer and co-director Brett M. Butler) having dumbfoundedly walked out on Lisa (Naomi M. Johnson) after discovering something unexpected when arriving home early from work one day. Such tumult is experienced only in recollections, both versions meshing together factually but illuminating the opposing (and often completely incompatible) viewpoints and motivations on either end. Such is an unusually and moderately brilliant tool here, and one senses that, had the creative team of Brett and Jason Butler more experience under there belts, the premise could have been developed into something of great measure, like a second-generation channeling of Woody Allen. Though less witty or enrapturing as anything near Annie Hall (not to mention deliberately more embittered), Confusions marks a distinct voice, a quality that helps solidify it as something truly, honorably Indie. Hope yet remains for the cinematic world.

Beginning after initial shockwaves and subsequent fallout, Confusions first addresses the state of Dan, who took to his brother's apartment after leaving his own with virtually none of his belongings (the entirety of which he has yet to get back). In these opening scenes, Confusions gets the kind of emotional hang-up suffered after such an emotional blow absolutely right: waking up from yet another night on the couch, Dan downs some half dozen beers before acknowledging the world before him, absorbed in destructive and inefficient routine as a distraction from feeling and responsibility (trust me, I've been there). The look and performance are raw in a naturalistic amateur way but remain rooted in a felt reality, one that functions entirely on the muted restraint of self that denies an emotional presence and thus the pain that accompanies it. Speaking plainly to the camera (one wonders who "filmed" the solo interviews, and if they accompany the couple as they interact together), Dan conveys his inner thoughts deliberately and honestly, often hypocritical or misguided but never untrue to his developmentally arrested self: here I am, this is how I feel, and why. Ditto Lisa, who shows equal capacity for self-absorption or ignorance in her own views. In other words, they're just like you and I, and watching their respective confessions is most aggravating if only for wanting to tell them how much they're talking past each other, words flying aimlessly at targets neither seen nor felt. Confusions understands the impossibility of truly understanding the viewpoint of another (although at times the male/female communications here are so amusingly inept that one must wonder how the couple in question ever managed to live together in the first place), with just another layer of experience, emotions, and memories lying just below the surface of the last. As Kane showed us, there's always another Rosebud.

The only thing weighing down the final effect of Confusions, then, is the chemistry of the performances, which function almost astonishingly when singular but hit a wall of uneasy trepidation when interacting together. To say the least, Butler and Johnson are no Ullmann/Josephson or Hawke/Delpy, and though such comparisons would be cruel and pointless to make, a look at their differences is indicative of the former's simple but key limitation: overlapping. Achieving in its interviews a Kevin Smith-like balance of realist and verbose dialogue, Confusions wavers between projected realism and awkward would-be stage acting. Determined to get his possessions back and maybe patch things up, Dan works up the willpower to go back to Lisa and his former apartment, having to let himself in with his former key after Lisa closes the door in his face. Though the projected interplay is intriguing (details arise on what happened, why, and what has happened since) the stars of Confusions feel like anything but people once intimately familiar with each other, pausing between exchanges as if the audience itself needed a moment to catch up. We don't, and though Confusions would have never reached greatness even without the rough patches, it has a gnarly, post-sex mustiness to it that makes it almost radically legitimate in its anti-polished, necessary unpleasantries. "A feral anti-romance" would make a good selling point.


  1. This is interesting, but it is the first time I've even heard about it. When was it released?

    Good analysis though. I suck.

  2. "The unreleased indie dramedy..."

    answered my own question.

  3. The succession of thought from your first comment to the second is quite funny, though I must quarrel with the last two words of the former.