Newness review: swipe left on this shallow dating drama | Film

0
24

The young people today – they can’t stop screwing! Well, if this movie is any indication, anything is welcome if it keeps these people from talking.

Newness, the latest from director Drake Doremus, is a gorgeously shot film with an emphasis on beautiful people in closeup, striking interior design and impressionistic shallow focus. The screenplay, unfortunately, is equally shallow, and that’s a bit of a problem when it wants so hard to make a grand pronouncement about The Way We Live Now.

Martin (Nicholas Hoult) is a handsome young pharmacist, and when he isn’t letting older immigrant women slide on their copays, he’s swiping like mad on his Tinder-esque dating app. Across town (Los Angeles) a young physical therapist named Gabi (Laia Costa) is doing the same thing. As faces appear on their phones, we flash to mid-coital fantasies. If their prurience weren’t evident enough, Gabi even changes her status to DTF. (I’ll let you Google that one on your own.)

During a typical night (in which Martin shrugs off an invite to hang with real-life colleagues), Martin hooks up with an app-delivered gal who downed so many Klonopin pills that she throws up. Gabi leaves her friends at a bar when she’s matched with an “Instagram model” with enormous abs but leaves unsatisfied when he ejaculates faster than you can say “doesn’t anyone believe in romance any more?” (“Do you want to go down on me now?” she asks. His boorish response: “No, we just met.”) But the night is young and so are they; they throw out their lines a second time, meet, and stay out drinking until last call.

Martin is friendly and handsome, but terse. Gabi is a freethinker and has an adorable Catalan accent. They get back to his apartment at dawn but have no trouble mustering the energy to engage in marathon bouts of physical intimacy. (Movies, am I right?) The next morning, after brushing her teeth with her finger, she stays for breakfast. Then they hang out for the day at an art museum. One montage later they are a couple, and then the triumph comes: they delete their dating apps.

At close to the hour mark, the trouble hits. They really aren’t compatible. Or, maybe they are, it’s just that modernity offers so much easy sex it is impossible not to stray. After a night of mutual cheating, they decide to enter an open relationship. They spy on one another flirting, they have threesomes, they keep no secrets and it seems to be the right decision for them. For now.

Surely there is a good movie to be made about caring polyamorous relationships, but as with any romantic story the audience needs to fall in love with the idea of these characters being in love. Martin and Gabi are dull and dreary to the point of this feeling like an exercise in anti-storytelling. They have no inner life, no observations, no conversation skills, no likes or dislikes. They just look beautiful, take their clothes off a lot and occasionally shout.

Costa by-and-large comes off unscathed (did I mention that Catalan accent?), but we as moviegoers need to have a word about Hoult. I saw Newness at its Sundance premiere and, as the fate of the calendar would have it, it was in the same theater (the Eccles Center) at the same time (9.30pm) that I saw the just-good-enough JD Salinger biopic Rebel In The Rye just one night before. I even sat in the same seat! I try to go into festival films with as much of a tabula rasa as possible, so I knew nothing about Newness other than its title and director. When the end credits came I was shocked that the lead actor was the same man I’d seen just 24 hours earlier. It had nothing to do with costuming, or chameleon-like abilities; he’s just invisible in this movie.

To be fair, the “maximum lust” stretch of Newness is certainly, um, attention-getting. Lots of cool techno music and no shortage of nubile bodies. As a slick exploitation picture it isn’t unworthy, but Doremus is clearly trying rouse us with his version of realism. The problem is, even with all the nudity, it feels like a total fake. It has the look but doesn’t have the stench.

By the time ex-wives (Pom Klementieff) and sugar daddies (Danny Huston) enter the picture, a funny thing happens in the audience. It’s impossible to guess if Martin and Gabi will stay together, because it’s so unclear if they are right for each other. Should love prevail, or should they walk away? This is not brave screenwriting nuance, this is the complete failure of all parties to make this relationship feel important. Even with these newfangled dating apps, I don’t think we need to bemoan Love In Our Time. But if it produces more movies like Newness, we should me more selective about which film-makers we hook up with.

Click to view the original article on The Guardian.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here