“In a Relationship”
The Five Year Itch
“In a Relationship” is set against the backdrop of a Los Angeles summer. Director Sam Boyd (in his directorial debut) based the screenplay on his acclaimed 2015 short film. What the film does in essence is take the romantic comedy genre and takes away a lot of the nonsense that people find annoying.
We have Hallie (Emma Roberts) and Owen (Michael Angarano), Hallie’s cousin, Willa (Dree Hemingway) and Owen’s buddy, Matt (Patrick Gibson). As Hallie and Owen are the July 4th Independence Day holiday, Willa and Matt are allowing their relationship to row.
Despite their issues, Hallie makes the suggestion of moving in with Owen as a way to help with his rent payment issues. She’s spending so much time at his place so naturally, it makes perfect sense. By August, things have reached the point in their relationship in which they decide that it’s time for a break.
Matt has some quirks of his own. He lives at home with his parents, both of whom he says are “working on a Marvel movie in Atlanta.” By taking his parents out of the picture for a few months, we manage to avoid any parental conflict that has become so cliché.
The characters feel real enough and have chemistry. There’s some interesting moments that take place following the break-up but it’s best experienced without knowing what happens. What seem like vapid arguments by superficial people become intriguing as Boyd investigates all the posturing that goes on, with no one ever really articulating what they want as they stay in unhealthy relationships to keep up appearances. As Owen and Hallie’s romance that begins to fizzle, Matt and Willow’s starts to take off, yet both have the same creaky foundation that the people involved aren’t connected to each other so much as an idea of where they think they should be in their twenties, trying to be adults more than in name only.
After about 5 years of dating, Hallie and Owen’s relationship has hit an odd pointe. Marriage isn’t something that is really talked about but it not being talked about seems strange in itself. Hallie is pretty much at Owen’s apartment all the time but he doesn’t want to move in together so…
But the film isn’t just about Owen and Hallie trying to figure out if their relationship has run its course or not. Hallie’s best friend Willa is in a relationship with Owen’s childhood friend Matt, and we see the ups and downs of their relationship. While Owen and Hallie exhibit the issues that come from being together as long as they have, Matt and Willa deal with not just the newness of their relationship, but also their clash of personalities. Matt is a nice guy, of an actually interesting variety, while Willa who doesn’t adhere to respectability politics. We wonder if there will be a happy ending, a realistic ending, or a mix of both when it comes to these two couples.
There are quite a bit of compare and contrasts at play in the script which compares not just the relationships, but each character’s approach to relationships, how they approach love, and how they destroy or maintain it. Hallie and Matt are the types who seem like what they are looking for is long-term love with deep commitments. Then, on the other side, Owen and Willa who seem to enjoy honeymoon phase, but once things get too serious, they are ready to start sabotaging things.
Hallie is at a point in her life where her career is taking off and with that, like perhaps a lot of millennials, there is this question of why one aspect of her life is progressing while the other is stagnant. At this point of Matt’s life, the validation he seeks in a relationship is just the idea of being worthy of being the only one someone sees.
For Willa, normalcy is unavailability and inconsistency. So with Matt giving and expecting this, she sabotages the relationship by venturing to what she was used to versus what she comes to realize she wants.
Owen would rather leave on a high than face the unknown and the challenges beyond the honeymoon phase. This pushes Hallie to wonder if there are guys like Matt out there for Willa. No one is seen as a bad person and there aren’t grand gestures to get back with someone. Everything is rooted in reality so while secrets are found out, people try to reconcile, tears are shed and hookups happen, they are no dramatic blow-ups.
The film is simply a slice of life. We see people have sex, argue, do boring things with one another, talk about their past, their future, their careers, drink and do drugs, and all without much in the way of flair. Nothing is sensationalized.