Confusions of an Unmarried Couple

Written by: Brett M. Butler
Directed by: Brett M. Butler & Jason G. Butler
Starring: Brett M. Butler and Naomi M. Johnson

Dan (B. Butler) is a schmoe. Having fallen out with his girlfriend, Lisa (Johnson), he also fell out of the apartment they shared and has spent a great deal of time at his brother’s place, drinking beer, sleeping on the couch and generally being miserable. But he has a master plan–after all of the other tasks on his calendar have been accomplished, today is the day he goes back and confronts Lisa over their break-up (and tries to get back his stuff).

This is an interesting and enjoyable film for a few reasons. First, it was smartly put together to be done on a manageable budget. Two actors, one of them the writer and co-director, so there aren’t a lot of people to contend with. It mostly takes place in their (now ostensibly Lisa’s) apartment, so you don’t have a lot of locations. The fact that they built a project from the ground-up that would work inside those parameters shows that the Brothers Butler have brains. Put another way, they did not set out to make a large Busby Berkeley musical with this (or if they did, a lot of script trimming took place before production).

Also, there’s two films here. In one, we get Dan and Lisa talking about their relationship in sets of running monologues set around a different theme. It’s here that B. Butler and Johnson both shine–I don’t know if these were improvised or what, but they come across as truly authentic. As for the other film, I was at first perplexed. When Dan and Lisa are talking to each other, they’re saying things that sound incredibly inauthentic. And I don’t mean the lies they’re telling each other–they just didn’t seem like they were talking like real people talk. There are some gems in these scenes–a bit involving masturbation and cheating is really freaking funny–but for the most part I was wondering where these two good actors were from the other scenes. And the writing, where had it gone? In the monologues, it reminded me a bit of the Mamet play Sexual Perversity in Chicago for its brutal honesty and honest profanity. (Let’s face it, most people swear like sailors when their hearts having Riverdance performed on it.)

But after a bit towards the end that goes slightly meta–which I will not divulge here because I hate reviewers who pull that crap instead of, you know, reviewing the film–the way I’m going to choose to interpret this is the filmmakers’ statement on how we are as ourselves vs. the artifice of being with another person. And yes, I know that sounds like some kind of bullshit film school essay topic, but it’s the way I can reconcile this film and enjoy it even more than I did without that in my head.

If there’s one thing that I understand but wish it could be changed, it’s the cameraman-watching-a-tennis-match style of filming the two of them arguing. That sort of camera movement got old about 70% of the way through the film, and I think that might have just been a limitation of what they had to work with.

If you get a chance to see this, go for it: it’s entertaining. It takes a bit to get started, but once it’s rolling it has enough honesty and enough good performance, especially in the monologues, to worth sitting through.

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