By Don Simpson | June 19, 2013
Director: Dan Mirvish
Writers: Dan Mirvish (screenplay), Joe Hortua (screenplay, original play)
Starring: Julia Stiles, Melissa George, Taye Diggs, David Harbour
When Sharyl (Melissa George) and Joel (David Harbour) unexpectedly appear at the door of Grace (Julia Stiles) and Carlo’s (Taye Diggs) New York City apartment, we immediately flashback a couple of years to the moments before their friendship officially died. It is a while before writer-director Dan Mirvish allows us to return to Grace and Carlo’s apartment, as we spend a majority of the first half of Between Us observing Grace and Carlo’s first visit to Sharyl and Joel’s opulent Midwestern mansion.
It is slowly revealed that Joel and Carlo became best friends while they were photography majors at graduate school. After graduation, they chose to utilize their education in much different ways. Carlo opted to take the [struggling] artistic path of a fine arts photographer in New York City, while Joel chose to sell out as a financially successful commercial artist in the Midwest. Jealousy and resentment has always festered between Carlo and Joel, yet they have never addressed it directly. Now, as Joel carelessly flaunts his wealth and alcohol flows with reckless abandon, the gloves are dropped and their true feelings are exposed.
With the quick-paced lyrical flow of David Mamet, the bluntness of Neil LaBute and the scathing realism of John Cassavetes, the dialogue proves that words can be much more dangerous than weapons. Disdain and hatred drip like blood from every bruising combination of words, and no one in this intimate chamber piece is left unscathed. Between the lines, Between Us studiously contemplates how economic disparity, religion and career paths can tear friendships apart. Carlo and Joel have grown so far apart since graduate school that continuing their friendship seems utterly impossible.
In the eyes of Dan Mirvish’s film (and Joe Hortua’s original play), both men are at fault. They are both stubbornly unwilling to admit to making some bad decisions in their pasts. When it comes down to it, Carlo and Joel are both incredibly unhappy with their lives and careers; waiting for a dream to come true, as it turns out, is no better or worse than selling out. Grace and Sharyl try to put up with their irritably dissatisfied significant others, and their relationships are far from hunky dory despite the facades that they have so carefully created. The two women are as unlike each other as Carlo and Joel; they play much different roles in their relationships and have drastically different approaches to parenting. When Carlo and Joel stop talking to each other, there is certainly no love lost between Grace and Sharyl either.
No matter how many apologies are uttered, nothing can ever undo the brutally honest exchanges between these two couples. Too much has been exposed to ever move forward peacefully. First and foremost, money cannot be used as a bandaid to repair friendships or relationships.