No-budget filmmaking suits Edward Burns.
The actor/director, who arrived on the scene as Long Island’s answer to Woody Allen thanks to 1995’s “The Brothers McMullen,” now makes movies for less than the proverbial shoestring budget. Burns also embraces streaming technology without hesitation. His 2007 film “Purple Violets” debuted on iTunes, and his latest feature, “Newlyweds,” initially reached the masses through Video on Demand services.
That hardly matters if the movies themselves aren’t worth the Internet or cable connection. But “Newlyweds,” available now via old-fashioned DVD, represents a triumph of story over funding.
Burns shelled out a mere $9,000 to make “Newlyweds,” and while the film’s lo-fi look is apparent it never gets in the way. In fact, the intimate style brings us even closer to the titular “Newlyweds.”
Buzzy (Burns) and Katie (Caitlin Fitzgerald) are a married couple with no illusions about just how fragile modern relationships tend to be. They’ve both been married before, and they eagerly explain to anyone who will listen that their conflicting work schedules makes it impossible to become sick of one another.
That pragmatic streak may sound callous, but the two truly look like they’re in love.
Enter Linda (Kathy Bishe), an emotional train wreck who also happens to be Buzzy’s half sister. Linda moves in to Buzzy and Katie’s posh New York home and instantly starts trouble. And then there’s Katie’s unctuous sister Marsha (Marsha Dietlein), whose 18-year marriage looks like it might not last another month.
Yes, the family fireworks on display verge on overkill. But Burns grounds the chaos with sharp performances, witty dialogue and an impressive sense of modern day romance. Buzzy and Katie feel like a real couple, their intricate rhythms broken by their respective siblings.
Shattered is more like it.
Burns doesn’t fall for cheap sight gags or momentum-crushing set pieces meant to push the story toward expected resolutions. The screenplay offers small pleasures, banter that cements both character and plot. Secondary characters like Marsha’s husband (Max Baker) and Katie’s ex (Dara Coleman) add more nuance and coloring to a story that already has our attention.
Marriage is hard enough without juggling the emotional flareups of our loved ones, a lesson “Newlyweds” teaches us over and again.
The bigger lesson is how Burns squeezes every last nickel to deliver a story far richer than most modern rom-coms.
The DVD extras include deleted scenes and two interviews with Burns covering the inspiration behind the movie as well as his ties to indie filmmaking.