These millennials and their sad hook-ups.
Martin (Nicholas Hoult) and Gabi (Laia Costa) meet late one night through a hook-up app and they do just that. They go out, have a few drinks, hit it off, go back to one of their places, have sex, and move on with their lives. However, both feel as if there is something far more serious and meaningful at play here, so they decide to give this relationship thing a shot. At first, it works and they’re both incredibly happy. But as time goes on and on, they begin to start feeling the separation from the rest of the outside world and decide that instead of closing themselves off to one another, they’ll have an open-relationship, where either is able to do what they want, with whomever, so long as it’s okay with the other person. Gabi finds comfort and solace in an older gentleman (Danny Huston), but Martin, already reeling from a divorce, seems to be having a much tougher time getting used to the dating world and doesn’t know what he wants. Gabi doesn’t either, but they’re both two young, attractive people living in L.A., during the 21st century, so why float around from person-to-person?
Director Drake Doremus has a rather hushed, muted style that’s worked well for his past two features (In Secret, Equals), because they could have both been very over-the-top, loud, and soapy melodramatic pieces of romance in anybody else’s hands. However, in his hands, he decided to play everything down in a much moody style, where he paid much more attention to how the camera flowed and how the movie sounded; the script came second and while that’s not always the best idea, it worked for him. The movies aren’t perfect, but they’re a sure sign that whatever bad blood he received with Like Crazy (a fairly underrated film, honestly), he knows how to dial it back – sometimes in a manner that alienates his audience more so than it invites them into his sad, sad world of repressed emotions.
But all that seems to be lost with Newness, his latest with writer Ben York Jones, in which the emotions are felt, only because they’re projected bright, big, and loud for the whole world to see. In fact, it’s as if Doremus wanted to hit back at the haters who have been getting at him for his movies being so quiet and decided that the best way to shut them all up was have an extra-talky movie, where characters went on and on about how they felt, and whether something was bothering them or not. That’s fine for most romantic-dramas and hell, it worked for Doremus with Like Crazy, but here, it’s way too over-the-top.
So much so that it feels phony.
It’s weird because you get the sense that Doremus understands and knows how real people, in their day-to-day lives, talk and communicate with one another. He’s not smarmy, nor is he cynical – he just has a knack for catching on with dialogue. But with Newness, the characters speak in such an mannered-way, it’s as if they’re reading off of cue-cards written by Nicholas Sparks. Think a character’s upset about an action caused by their partner? Don’t worry, they’ll spend 15 minutes yelling about it.
This isn’t to say that this kind of stuff doesn’t happen in real life relationships, but to see a movie about it, where the only real objective is to show how awfully painful relationships can be for Gen-Y, it doesn’t quite work. It’s all too depressing and meandering and makes it feel like Doremus and York Jones are just stretching an hour’s worth of material to nearly two, which makes all of the arguments and yelling seem overblown and sappy. It can be a bit of an annoyance after awhile and all you really want for the characters to do is shut up, break up, and move on already.
In fact, it’s that simple.
The only possible saving-graces are the performances, but even they aren’t enough to save the day. Nicholas Hoult is hot and charming, but he’s sort of a blank-slate here; Laia Costa, despite being cute and spunky as hell, feels out-matched when the movie gets sappy and silly; Danny Huston shows up as a genuinely nice guy, who then turns into just being fodder for another argument Martin and Gabi can have; and Matthew Gray Gubler, showing up again as the voice-of-reason for our male romantic-lead, does just that.
Wait, does that role for him sound familiar? Stick with what ya know, I guess.
Consensus: Newness tries its hardest to be smart, insightful, and disturbing, but mostly feels like a melodramatic, over-the-top piece of sap that’s given some indie-cred because it’s shot beautifully.
4.5 / 10
Photos Courtesy of: Giant Interactive