Written by: Joe Hortua and Dan Mirvish
Stars: Julia Stiles, Melissa George, Taye Diggs, and David Harbour
The scenes were simple, the concept realistic. Two sets of grad school friends, now married for years and living in different regions of the country, reunited for a weekend. Sharyl and Joel, the midwesterners, had "made it" financially. They showed off their wealth and what it bought, but Carlo and Grace quickly learned that money didn't buy them everything...happiness was most definitely missing. The wine was endlessly poured and the acerbic words spilled effortlessly from Joel and Sharyl's mouths. The anger, frustration, resentment, jealousy and even hatred were evident. As the evening progressed, Sharyl and Joel revealed secrets about each other in hateful, spiteful ways. Secrets that should have remained just between the two of them came charging to the uncomfortable forefront. Carlo and Grace felt torn, but wanted desperately to leave. It was then that we were quickly transported to a date 2 or 3 years later in NYC at Grace and Carlo's apartment. Joel and Sharyl unexpectedly showed up. It was immediately evident that they were not welcomed. Flashing back and forth in time, the entire story unfolded to see both relationships growing and changing; not always for the better.
"Between Us" reminded me in many ways of "Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolf." It was a tense and powerful film portraying many marriages and relationships. The reactions and emotions each actor demonstrated were riveting and ultimately believable. The fast paced, overlapping conversational style was realistic. Mirvish credited Robert Altman, his past mentor, with the ability to accomplish this. Not only the style, but the conversational topics were completely possible, bouncing from superficial topics of babies' schedules to intimate thoughts about dashed hopes and dreams. These couples faced typical problems any married couple could relate to. Who hasn't changed his life dream, dealt with a colicky baby, experienced financial burdens, or lost passion in a relationship? It's not just the big issues that knock away at the foundation of a relationship. Chipping away at it with petty issues can be just as damaging. When a little thing like Sharyl having chosen a bottle of wine from the wine cellar and decanting it without knowing if it was a $20 bottle or a $100 bottle, Joel's sarcastic words sliced through Sharyl like a machete. You would have thought she accidentally bought the Hope Diamond on her credit card! Who hasn't made a mountain out of a mole hill in a relationship? We all have. (We have Tuesday Wine at my house. It was an ordinary Tuesday and I wanted a glass of wine. I opened a bottle of Justin FOCUS not realizing it was $100. Oooopppsss! I now drink Two Buck Chuck on Tuesdays!) "Between Us" was a harsh look at the fact that we aren't all Ward and June Cleaver.
The reality of this film, the skilled performances, and the tight script and dialogue made this film gripping. Marriage can be a rough road full of pot holes, loose edges, and an occasional boulder placed in the middle. Mirvish expressed that part of the take home message of this film is that hope is there, "even when we are at our worst, we still look out for each other."
"Between Us" opens Friday, June 7 in limited release. Wide release and DVD release will follow. If you're married or have been, this film will hit home. For some it may hit too close to home! If you're one of those couples, I might suggest going for dinner before the movie instead of after. The conversation might be a bit different if you have dinner after the movie! If you have a perfect relationship, then this might not be the film for you. I hear there are Leave It To Beaver reruns on just for you!