The Butler Brothers continue to amaze me. As filmmakers, they have a mental library of great directors they draw upon to make their own works. More importantly, I never feel that they are unworthy of the significant comparisons.
Take the brothers' newest film, Confusions of an Unmarried Couple, for example. The influences of John Cassavetes are unmistakable. It’s easily the strongest film to date from two of the strongest voices in indie film; but that also means it’s time for them to step it up to the next level of filmmaking.
Confusions follows Dan who, months after finding his girlfriend Lisa in bed with another girl, decides to collect his belongings from the apartment they share. Apparently looking for a confrontation, Dan makes sure that Lisa is home before he barges in. An argument, months in the making, lives up to everything a knock-down, drag-out relationship fight should be, right down the sex part.
Confusions is the Butler Brothers' most inspired and most flawed achievement. It’s inspired because the Brothers take their usual topic (a break-up) and turn it into a fresh cinéma vérité relationship film. The life and intimacy in the production is what differentiates the Brothers’ work from the films that inspire them.
But the Brothers have outgrown the style that made them famous. In an interview, co-director Brett Butler said that he and his brother Jason have matured, but their characters haven’t. It’s apparent on screen. The story doesn’t need the Butlers’ signature humor, which is rooted in the kind of debates groups of friends, not two lovers, would have. Some of the lines just fall flat. In spite of that, the film holds together.
Maybe it’s the aggressive intimacy that makes the film work. The Brothers are able to dig up conscious and subconscious insecurities in their characters. The devastating honesty in the interviews with Lisa and Dan (made into a documentary by Dan’s fictional brother) goes beyond the pop culture references to Sixteen Candles or Angelina Jolie.