Sunday, April 4, 2010

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See Breaking Upwards

Breaking Upwards was released in New York Friday. This independent feature, co-written with Peter Duchan by stars/real-life couple Daryl Wein and Zoe Lister-Jones, focuses on a couple "opening up" their relationship. Or, as Zoe Lister-Jones put it when I saw this at last year's Tallahassee Film Festival, they "mastermind [their] own break-up". It's an interesting little movie, as the two of them set down The Rules, including days when they're a couple and days when they aren't. Of course, feelings get hurt and they actually meet other people and have to explain things to their parents. It's a really great movie.

So I'm ecstatic that it's opening to a lot of press, great reviews, and a box office that's already allowed it to recoup its budget. I never reviewed it for some reason, even though it was my favorite at the Festival and I put it at #16 of my Top 25 of the Year. Hell, I even got to meet Wein and Lister-Jones after the film! Sometimes I just don't want to write about the movies I love. I'm afraid that I won't do it justice, or that my review will just come out as "AHHHHH THIS MOVIE ROOOOOOCKS!!!" And then, of course, there's the fact that whatever made me connect to it the way I did was extremely personal, to a point where I'm not even sure what it was in particular.

I do know that I love it, though. There are moments in this movie that just sing to me. Wein and Lister-Jones, a couple in real life, have great chemistry together, both in humorous scenes and in the more dramatic ones. Of course, with the knowledge that the movie is based on their own experience -- down to them even keeping their names -- it sometimes gets uncomfortable, like you're Honey watching George and Martha go at it. But it's also an incredible risk that they took, testing their relationship both in taking the break and documenting it, albeit in a fictional way.

The movie does not have a score, at least not one that intrudes on the superb, quieter moments. Zoe's rendezvous with a co-star (she's an actress at a black box theatre) is one such scene that stands out; no words, no music, just her face revealing her emotions. It's pained yet determined. I love it. It's real. Lister-Jones' whole performance is beautiful, and while Wein is indeed talented, she far outshines him. It helps, of course, that the film strikes a perfect balance between its stars, so that we neither applaud nor condemn them. They're doing what they think is right at the time.

Now, I'm glad this came out domestically finally, because that means I can discuss two of the greatest supporting actresses I saw last year. Andrea Martin and Julie White play their mothers. Martin, as Zoe's mom, still remains friends with Daryl. She's single and more open to the whole thing, even if she doesn't agree with it. White, by contrast, can't understand what's going on, and a dinner scene between these loving and confused mothers is the highlight of the movie. Peter Friedman is always welcome, and he too is perfection as Daryl's patient father.

Daryl Wein's direction is fantastic, minimalist yet effective, a trait of some of my favorite directors. Like Oren Moverman, he allows his camera to just remain still, capturing uninterrupted performances. And an uninterrupted performance, ladies and gents, is a genuine performance, one not assembled in the editing room, but right there, on set! Real acting, real directing! What a novel approach!

It's an incredible movie, really. I only hope it expands, because I do think this is something that everyone should see. We all know or have been these people, we know these mothers, we know this story. Breaking Upwards just dramatizes better than anything I've seen.

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