About three months ago, I was contacted by Brett Butler. He said he liked my blog and wanted me to review some films that he and his brother had directed/produced/edited/and everything else. At first, I thought his e-mail was spam. Who was I to judge their work? They didn't know me. But I was glad they contacted me and I was honored to see their stuff, so I told them to send it my way.
They sent me two films: Bums and Confusions of an Unmarried Couple. After watching both, I want to hang with Brett and Jason, The Butler Brothers. There's no doubt they are witty, insightful and have an enormous knowledge of film. They have a talent for dialogue and have the ability to weave pop culture references into their movies seamlessly. Their acting is not bad and seems honest and the camera work is loose and spontaneous. It works with the themes of these movies and is a good example of how a limited budget causes you to be more creative in your thinking.
I first watched Bums and I have to admit, while I liked the performances of Jason and Brett, and the dialogue was sharp and fast, I didn't care much for it. It really has nothing to do with the movie as a whole and absolutely everything to do with my tastes in general and the station I am in in life. I compare it to the likes of Kicking and Screaming and SuBurbia and I know that's high praise because those movies are both very good for what they do, and there was a time when I loved 'talkies' such as this, but that time has passed. As a husband and father of two I don't find myself too often sitting around and contemplating relationships with my friends being that I'm in a good one myself. That being said, I found myself identifying much more with their second movie Confusion of an Unmarried Couple. In it we find Dan (Brett Butler) recently broken up with his longtime girlfriend. Dan's brother has asked him to produce a video diary of his feelings during the break-up. It's an annoying commitment that Dan has carried through with and the video footage of his one on one with the camera provides a nice narrative for the entire movie. In addition to the one on one interviews, the camera is loose and flowing very documentary style. The conversations between Dan and his girlfriend are back and forth. Very few cuts.
The sign of good writing is the ability to show an unwavering honesty in the characters and the subject matter. I felt this early on as Dan confesses to the camera that since his break-up he can't masturbate without crying. It's sad and you know it's true because it's so specific. The reason for the break-up is because Lisa (Naomi Johnson), Dan's girlfriend, cheated on him with another woman. Probably my favorite part of the movie is when Dan describes the different kind of women he would consider having an affair with. He goes through descriptor after descriptor (the small breasted red-head with a lot of freckles, the woman with the boyish body) and you can't help but take glee in the possibilities. Dan weighs in on the girl/girl relationship and I was pleased to see that he didn't make the predictable comment of being turned on by it. Instead, he says it hurts just as much as if it were a guy, because Lisa is sharing those sacred feelings once reserved for Dan with someone else. That's heartbreaking no matter who it is.
I enjoyed Brett's performance of Dan for the sole reason that I couldn't get a complete handle on him. Is he sincere in his journey to get back Lisa? If so, why is he continuing to gather his things throughout the apartment? At one moment he's sentimental, the next sarcastic and unforgiving. Dan is best when he's one on one with the camera. It's there that his dry wit comes through and his performance seems the most honest. The same can be said of Lisa. She is much softer in the interviews than she comes across in the apartment. In her conversation's with Dan, Lisa's character is so defensive that it was hard to find the spark that made Dan want to try to get her back. And if there's a fault in the movie, it's that there isn't much depth to Lisa's character. She seems to go from bitchy to bitchier. But her stubbornness is right on. She was wrong but won't admit it. It's the sign of a good relationship and friendship that it takes the movement of heaven and earth to get one to admit they're wrong. I would say that over 50% of bad marriages or relationships are not a result of one bad thing, but a series of small unresolved issues due to an unwillingness to apologize.
In the end, Lisa and Dan's relationship seemed mostly physical in nature. Lots of time was dedicated to talk of sex which is not surprising in a healthy relationship but in lieu of any true spark between the two we are left with sex. And sex ain't bad if it's good. And it seemed good between the two. Towards the end, Lisa offers up that it seems she and Dan always have sex after a big fight. That follows with the idea that the two are always looking for reasons to have sex. It's not just the act of having sex, it's a reason for having it. And to me, that brings up an interesting take on the movie itself. Was the break-up between Dan and Lisa for real or was it just another elaborate plan. A chance to revive a sex life that may have become stale. All documented by Dan's brother. I may be delving a bit too deep here, but I found it an interesting approach if it was intended.
Hats off to the brothers for creating some pretty damn interesting cinema. The two are currently traveling around from film festival to film festival with their movies. This August 3rd, they will be screening Confusions of an Unmarried Couple at the Wreck Beach International Film Festival. Not a bad life. Drinking beer and talking about movies. Where do I sign up?
You can find The Butler's Brothers work on sale at Amazon.com.