Newlyweds (USA) Directed by Ed Burns Written by Ed Burns Starring Ed Burns; Caitlin Fitzgerald; Kerry Bishe’; Marsha Dietlein; Johnny Solo; Max Baker; Dara Coleman
Writer/director/producer/actor Ed Burns continues his newfound quest to make quality cinema on a micro-budget with his latest offering - a low key, Woody Allen-esque story about married relationships.
Burns has made his worship for Allen widely known, and the connection with the masters aesthetic is as strong with Newlyweds as it has been in any piece during Burns’ directorial career, right down to the direct-to camera confessionals with the cast members. The story centers on Buzzy (Burns) and Katie (Caitlin Fitzgerald) as the titular NYC newly marrieds (both on their second go around), who are faced with problems surrounding their dysfunctional immediate families that begin to affect their relationship.
Though not a lot happens plot-wise, the cast consisting of Kerry Bishe’ as Buzzy’s half sister Linda; Johnny Solo as her ex boyfriend Miles; Marsha Dietlein as Katie’s older sister Marsha; Max Baker as her husband Max; and Dara Coleman as Katey’s ex-husband Dara is solid. Burns employs his go to cinematographer William Rexer, who squeezes a lot out of his 5D camera and the natural light available to him.
Burns has had varying degrees of success making movies, from the timely Sundance sensation (though grossly overrated) Brothers McMullen, which launched his career; to the embarrassingly atrocious Ash Wednesday; to a mixed bag like Groomsmen; the more evolved Sidewalks of New York; to a recent spate of understated, low key offerings (that Newlyweds fits into), including Looking for Kitty; Purple Violets; and Nice Guy Johnny that seem to indicate the director is hitting his stride artistically.
Earlier in his career, the Long Island raised Burns, the son of an NYC police Sergeant, seemed exclusively drawn to stories focusing on his view of blue collar Irish Americans. Despite a series of talented casts and Burns’ facility with dialogue, there was a kind of forced quality to these films arising from an abundance of cliched elements. Lately, Burns seems to have branched out, exploring the same basic relationship themes, but minus the heavy dose of ethnic consciousness, choosing mostly narrow character studies that work well under low tech conditions. While Irish American characters and New York as a backdrop are still part of the mix, these things now take a back seat to the people and relationships on display.
Film-making is ultimately a business and Burns, a big proponent of V.O.D. and other alternatives to theatrical distribution, seems to have found a model he can successfully work within. His fame, success as an actor, and long time marriage to a wealthy supermodel, allow him to gain attention, and attract talent in front of and behind the camera, which all lead to distribution avenues he likely would not be able to garner otherwise. Burns can then tout a film like Newlyweds as being shot for $9000 (with deferrals), when of course the reality is Ed Burns’ $9000 is not your average unknown film-maker’s $9000.
With that said, Newlyweds continues the director’s march in the right direction, and with quality undertakings such as this he will grow his brand further and create an audience (limited as it might be) that will, like Woody’s, be there each time out of the box, regardless of the venue. Though his model might include drastically lower budgets than those of his film-making hero, the same principle applies - make money for your investors/distribution partners/yourself (or at least don’t lose money) each time out of the box and you will continue to be able to make them (though clearly Burns has enough money to finance these kinds of films for the rest of his life regardless).
The potential bad news is Burns is quoted as talking about taking advice from Tyler Perry and is embarked on a project entitled The Fitzgerald’s Family Christmas. Oh boy.