Directed By Nikole Beckwith
Starring – Patti Harrison, Ed Helms, Rosalind Chao
The Plot – When a young loner (Harrison) becomes the gestational surrogate for a single man (Helms) in his 40s, the two strangers come to realize this unexpected relationship will challenge their perceptions of connection, boundaries and the particulars of love.
Rated R for some sexual references and adult language
– Loveable leads. Kicking off my abundance of praise for this movie is the eye-opening performances from Harrison and Helms which supplants its way into the hearts of the audience from some insatiable chemistry between them. The banter between them feels enriched in authenticity, complete with awkward pauses and growing silence better accommodating the strangers that they stood as before their initial agreement. On top of this, Helms preserves a sweet and sappy side to his demeanor that allows us to see him in a completely different light that we’ve come to expect in his trashy comedies of the past decade, preserving Matt with a nurturing likeability that sadly plays into the overbearing loneliness of his character. Harrison however is the buzzworthy stand-out for me, combining an abundance of nuance and sarcasm to Anna, which really gives her personality a lived-in quality for transcending fictional cinema. On top of this, there’s no shortage of quirky character cameos inserted within the context of their narrative that really helps add to the levity and humor of the awkwardness, especially Saturday Night Live’s Nora Dunn, whose brunt deliveries deliberately play into the movie’s dissection of pregnancy conventionalism.
– Technical scope. Much of the presentation and production for the film is wise enough to accentuate without feeling like a gimmick of its own to steal attention away from the story, but even saying that there’s some fine touches of professionalism to play into the movie’s aesthetics. The cinematography from Frank Barrera visually alludes to the growing connection between the two protagonists which is cemented by its growing complexity. For instance, early on in the film we get a lot of lone framing for Matt and Anna, which conveys the loneliness of their backstories with the impersonal nature of their agreement. As the film persists, we get more examples of them sharing frames and growing together as one within this unconventional union between them, concluding with a interpretable final shot that I took as heartbreakingly bittersweet. In addition to this, the musical score from Alex Somers conjures up a soft sentimentality that really works wonders for the movie’s emotional registry, and when coupled with the element of natural lighting throughout the visuals really grants us a pleasant approach attained by simplicity in production.
– Unconventional humor. The caustic and stern registries delivering intoxicating banter between the leads not only led to an abundance of laughs for my personal experience, but also presents one of the more honest scripts that has indulged me in quite sometime. It’s important to note that the humor in the film rarely ever feels timely, especially considering so many retorts come out of nowhere and effect so very little of the context of the scene. They’re almost like a series of afterthoughts in the bigger picture, complete with subtle deliveries to see if the audience truly is paying attention. I firmly was, and was paid off with a film that was one of the more emotionally rewarding experiences despite comedy arguably being the second most descriptive genre for its level of entertainment value. Often, the material pokes fun at the bizarre and outdated ideals associated with pregnancy, and is able to emit some alarming examples that we as an audience can competently interpret with such experience to detect bullshit long before the characters do.
– Nourishing commentary. Without question, the most rewarding aspect of the film, and one that helps to distinguish it against similar films of this subgenre, is the dissection of social commentary that fights back against the preconceived notions of what a union should be. Beyond that, there’s exploration of the roles that a man and woman play in the pregnancy, how society views each of them when those two aren’t as romantically involved as the surrounding world would like them to be, and the internal struggles that comes as a result of the hormonal imbalance that plays into the claustrophobia of the pregnancy. This is where Beckwith really supplants her value of importance towards the film, because without the clarity in commentary in stitching these pivotal but diverse themes together, the film would come across as unpleasantly scatterbrained, but her capability towards valuing both a man and woman’s perspective from such a vantage is most admirable, and really grants “Together Together” the shelf life that exceeds long after the credit with the thought-provoking knowledge that it conveys in its experiences.
– Unpredictable. This was the one aspect of the film that I was truly dreading, as films like this are often stitched together by the inevitability of an ending with so little wiggle room. Fortunately, my fears were silenced almost completely, as the third act takes a couple of unconventional directions that I honestly wasn’t expecting while playing into the loose definition of soul mates that the movie’s material continuously inscribes. Quite often, I was treading carefully because at any moment during the many times the movie quite literally tiptoes with trepidation around this glaring avenue of exploration, but to my happiness never committed to. This could disappoint other audiences looking for the movie’s climax to result in a direction with these characters that served as the primary motivation for giving a story as unique as this one their hard earned money to see, but I feel like the script remains most honorable when it remains faithful to the gimmick that it has created with this authentic woven fabric throughout the film’s creativity. An element that allows it to succeed those previously unmentioned films that it can be compared to.
– Rhythm of life. One aspect that I could’ve mentioned in the movie’s technical capacity, but chose to grant it time of its own, is the spontaneity of the movie’s editing schemes that blaze a trail of its own for what it chooses to include to this particular narrative. At first, I was thrown off for where it abruptly cuts in the middle of any conversation of key exposition, but towards the end of the movie’s first act, I grew to appreciating the magnetism of pasting certain scenes together, especially considering so much of the transitions feed into the satisfyingly caustic wit that I previously alluded to. One scene goes from talking about two characters having a conversation of their own, then cutting to it in the same way animated sitcoms do of the current age, but what makes it pleasantly diverse here is the flash forward scene never comes back to its original captor, and instead proceeds as one of the many beats in life’s ever-changing song.
– Earning its place. When compared to top of the mountain films of the subgenre like “Juno” or “Baby Mama”, “Together Together” supplants itself as the quintessential surrogate film for the abundance of knowledge that it instills in its unflinching dissertation. While the film does have comedy that I previously praised especially, this film remains firmly focused in the dramatic elements, which harvest an abundance of depth to the meaning of the characters. As to where surrogates have previously been trivialized as a temporary relief in the tribulations of a couple seeking the next step in their relationship, here Beckwith manages to articulate the connection between sides that plays a pivotal role in the baby’s established environment. It values Anna and other surrogates for making a difficult emotional decision and playing towards a sacrifice of such to give someone else happiness, and never leaves her side for the grim realizations that come at the hands of some unforeseen circumstances in her otherwise tough exterior.
– Inescapably redundant. On a pacing level, the film is almost consistently entertaining for the duration of its 85 minute sit, but one 10-15 minute period early on in the movie’s third act left it feeling a bit too repetitive for my taste, and kept the storytelling on pause until the inevitability of the movie’s climax could materialize. Strangely enough, what I think could fix this is more time alluded to the movie’s finished product, with more devotion to Anna’s backstory being further fleshed out before the major revelations about her character. While I knew a lot about her, I felt I didn’t know everything about her, and in a story this honest and upfront about every theme and consequence that it embroiders in the fabric of its material, I felt there was much to be desired about the characterization that occasionally felt very distant during the movie’s second half.
– Stumbled execution. Even though this is a film that is all about subverting time-riddled tropes and familiarities, it can’t help but fall for a variety of them that occasionally compromises the integrity of its film. Most of them are forgettable, but one such overwhelming circumstance is the abundance of creepiness that Helms’ Matt constantly maintains in his control over Anna. While part of the contract by itself, I hate how the movie virtually leaves Anna helpless in Matt’s power of telling her what to eat, where to sleep, and his sometimes forceful demeanor in including her into decisions about the baby that are very insensitive to the emotional ambiguity that she is trying to keep with delivering this baby. It does kind of preach against these elements of helpless obedience with regards to the evolution of its characters, but there’s still this resonating uneasiness and creepiness that persists through much of the movements of the characters, occasionally souring the saturation of the movie’s sweetness that I was smittedly spellbound by.
My Grade: 8/10 or B+