Newlyweds: Tribeca Review

Thin riff on the strains put on a new marriage suffers from lazy storytelling and unbelievable characters

The movie, shot in Lower Manhattan, centers on a marriage tested by annoying siblings-in-law.

NEW YORK — A lightweight comedy about a marriage tested by annoying siblings-in-law, Edward Burns’ Newlyweds offers protagonists who put so little thought into getting hitched it's hard to care whether their first fight will break them up or not. Theatrical prospects are slight, but followers of the writer-director-star will be satisfied when they find it on the small screen.

Burns plays Buzzy, a personal trainer just married to Katie (Caitlin FitzGerald); we meet them in a cafe where they're smugly telling Katie's sister and brother-in-law (Marsha Dietlein Bennett and Max Baker) how their conflicting work schedules, which keep them from spending much time together, ensure they'll stay happily married.

Their cynical bliss is shattered with the arrival of Buzzy's half-sister Linda (Kerry Bishé), an emotionally unstable alcoholic who moves into their home uninvited -- having come from L.A. to New York with the goal of seducing an ex-boyfriend who just married someone else. Her hard-to-buy misbehavior leads to predictable tension, which works as middling comedy until Burns starts to take the strife seriously late in the film.

Newlyweds has an odd attitude toward matrimony: Its drama requires concern about a relationship's survival, but the only character very invested in the " 'til death do us part" ideal is Katie's sister -- the most grating presence in a movie stocked with problematic people, and the only character for whom the film has no empathy. (Dietlein Bennett's performance is a charmless echo of Leslie Mann's weary wife in Knocked Up.)

The movie also suffers from its haphazard use of the mock-doc idiom. Characters often address the camera as if speaking to interviewers, sometimes interrupting the drama in a way suggesting that all the action is being shot by a doc crew. But many of the film's scenes are of intimate moments that would never happen in front of documentarians, and Burns's indifference to this distinction makes his use of the faddish technique look like lazy storytelling.

Shot in Lower Manhattan, Newlyweds practically demands inclusion in the Tribeca fest by showcasing the neighborhood's restaurants and cobblestone streets. The festival's beer- and auto-maker sponsors even get prominent screen time.

Venue: Tribeca Film Festival, Gala section
Production Company: Marlboro Road Gang Productions
Cast: Edward Burns, Kerry Bishé, Marsha Dietlein Bennett, Caitlin FitzGerald, John Solo, Dara Coleman, Max Baker
Director-screenwriter: Edward Burns
Producers: Aaron Lubin, Edward Burns, William Rexler II
Executive producer: Mike Harrop
Director of photography: William Rexler
Music: PT Walkley
Editor: Janet Gaynor
Sales: John Sloss, Cinetic Media
No rating, 95 minutes