Ed Burns Seeks to Spice Up His Career and Indie Film
By T.T Stern-Enzi
Rating: Not Rated
Rather quietly and without much of the signature fanfare that greeted the fledgling movement back in the early 1990s, indie film has continued to evolve, almost in defiance to the sense that it would simply just grow up and old. Names sprang up and were quickly followed by the next line, the next generation (although to define these periods as generations denotes an aging process that occurred in a matter of mere moments or a couple of films during a prolific run and not the expected years or decades).
One of the names that captured the collective imagination of the indie film community was Ed Burns. The Queens, New York native had a quintessential story; he was a mythic hero among the set. Burns was the Irish-Catholic answer to Woody Allen, but instead of Jewish neuroses, he came equipped with leading man good looks and a tough, yet easy swagger. He was a man’s man and a good guy with his eye on telling stories about good but conflicted guys and the women they struggled to understand.
The shoestring budget and stolen moments filming technique generated a hit with 1995’s The Brothers McMullen and quickly led to a follow-up (She’s the One) a year later with more star power and money and higher production values, but little more to say. Undaunted by the sophomore slump, Burns refused to look back (making No Looking Back in 1998) and he began to capitalize on his ability to attract acting gigs in other high-profile projects like Saving Private Ryan, 15 Minutes, and Life Or Something Like It, while his own films slipped further into the background of the indie world.
Newlyweds, the new film by “Edward Burns” finds him still squarely in the business of making movies and making them as he did at the beginning. Unlike, say, Kevin Smith, another indie filmmaker who flirted with more mainstream recognition before recently announcing his “upcoming” retirement from movies (podcasting is his second act), Burns seemingly has no desire to leave the game or to change his style of play.
Newlyweds, released on DVD and through digital distribution channels on May 22, mines the same relationship territory that was his bread and butter and features him front and center as Buzzy, a newly (and relatively quickly) married New Yorker struggling to keep it all together as others around him, including his wife’s sister and her husband (Marsha Dietlein Bennett and Max Baker), flounder and flail after years together.
Burns smartly adopts a faux documentary approach to the proceedings, capturing individual characters talking about their situations in-between reality-based situational footage, for a behind-the-scenes feel that more closely resembles life than the unscripted television shows that dominate the current cable landscape. He knows how to tell a story and he continues to do so here with fresh faces and in live New York environs. Burns remains a good Catholic storyteller, which means his guilt and earnest striving to do the right thing is ever-present, and for the first time since The Brother McMullen, it seems like he’s got a handle on the tricky romantic geometry.
Newlyweds premiered at the 2011 Tribeca Film Festival with American Express as a producing partner, which guaranteed Burns would have more control over the project and opened up the avenue of digital distribution, the new wave for indie filmmakers. It’s a brave new world for filmmaking, but Burns has been around the block once or twice and looks game for another go.
Reach DCP film critic T.T. Stern-Enzi at Film@DaytonCityPaper.com