Untogether

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Friday February 8, 2019

'Untogether'
'Untogether'  

"Untogether" starts out as one of those glossy, yet acerbic, rom-coms in which at least one pair of lovers do a reluctant mating dance but are so attractive and talented that they just can't help it in the end: They're in love, they're going to have to admit to it, and they're going to have to end up together.

In this case the central pairing is between Nick (Jamie Dornan), a surgeon and celebrated memoirist whose book about a tragic love affair has become a runaway bestseller, and Andrea (Jemima Kirke), an honest to god novelist and recovering addict. Thiers is a charged and uneasy relationship from the start: "Can I come on your face?" he asks; "Not until I've met your mother," she responds.

Nick is the sort of womanizer who lists prospects and conquests according to name-free notations ("Architect Girl," "Short brunette") but before you know it he's fully engaged in those rite-of-passage activities that every free-range corndog has to go through in his transformation to devoted mate: Namely, deleting numbers from his contacts and snipping off locks of Andrea's hair while she sleeps. For her part, Andrea has stolen one of his expensive shirts to use as a nightgown.

It almost feels like Nicole Holofcener is refashioning some of the tropes she so successfully explored in "Enough Said," and going for a darker edge, especially when Andrea's sister Tara (Lola Kirke) begins to draw away from her ex-rocker-cum-painter boyfriend Martin (Ben Mendelsohn) and develop a crush on a social justice crusader and rabbi named David (Billy Crystal) — whom she meets, by the way, while giving him a facial at a spa. Novelists, painters, aestheticians... welcome to a version of Los Angeles where talented people carom off each other with showers of melancholic angst and live in upscale houses (or chic tree houses, which is, of course, upscale in its own way).

But the writer-director of this film turns out to be Emma Forrest, and in this, her feature debut, her grasp on the material proves unsteady. The film's tone and focus wavers constantly, and when, here and there, the movie takes on a literary glimmer it's soon undone. The metaphorical possibilities of a housecat requiring an "emergency sex change" feel immanent, and yet unfulfilled; the repetitions of REM's "Shiny Happy People" start off feeling cheekily apt, but then turn grating and more than a little self-consciously ironic. Scratch this little crowd and under the thin layer of gild they turn out to be scuffed and quirky people.

Fair enough, but they also lose their charm. Even that would serve the movie if it were to hold a steadier course toward grim comedy, but half-hearted happy endings all around take the wind out of the film's sails.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.