As crowds celebrate from the Castro to the Village, the implications of the Supreme Court's DOMA and Prop 8 decisions are still reverberating around the country. But as same-sex couples start to register at Crate & Barrel, shouldn't they wonder: Of all the institutions to be committed to, is marriage really the sanest choice?
If Hollywood is any guide, it probably isn't. From “Double Indemnity” and “Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf” to “War of the Roses” and “Mr. & Mrs. Smith,” the silver screen is littered with bitter, vitriolic marriages scarred by regret, revenge and recrimination.
The latest installment in this genre is the “Between Us,” adapted from the hit off-Broadway play by Joe Hortua. The film version, which I directed, stars Julia Stiles and Taye Diggs as newlyweds and Melissa George and David Harbour as their old friends. Like those other movies in the grand Hollywood tradition of matrimony, “Between Us” arguably makes the case that heterosexual marriage ain't what it's cracked up to be.
The movie follows young, idealistic New Yorkers (Stiles and Diggs) as they visit their wealthier and longer-married friends in a ritzy Midwestern mansion. But money barely disguises the contempt behind the wealthy couple's marriage, and we quickly see it fractured to the point of disintegration.
As the film flashes forward a couple years, we now see that the Midwestern couple has repaired their marriage (made possible only by a painful accident), while the young idealists struggle under a mountain of college debt and the stresses of having a newborn in Manhattan. In short, the movie could well be seen as a cautionary tale against marriage — no matter which genders are involved.
Critics are already calling this a "devasting," "brutal," "scathing," "feverish," "powerful" and ultimately "hilarious" depiction of marriage and favorably comparing it to such classics of the genre as “Virginia Woolf,” “Carnal Knowledge” and Carnage. (Very generous comparisons, indeed!) And there's already awards chatter for the ensemble performances of Stiles, Diggs, George and Harbour.
So, before my same-sex friends start sending out save-the-date Evites, and "liking" certain china patterns on C&B's Facebook page, I would advise them all to see “Between Us” (in selected theaters now; on VOD July 30). For that matter, every hetero couple in America should see the film, too.
Or as one of the characters on the verge of divorce warns his newlywed friends: "This will do them good; see what a marriage can become."