MOVIE OF THE WEEK April 23, 2021: TOGETHER TOGETHER
It’s not often that a movie’s title font is part of its message/commentary, but you have to believe that writer/director Nikole Beckwith knew exactly what she was doing when she selected serif, white-on-black typography for the credits of Together Together. Film buffs are likely to recognize it instantly as “Woody Allen font” — but this poignant friendship dramedy is no Annie Hall or Manhattan (and that’s a good thing).
In fact, main characters Matt (Ed Helms) and Anna (Patti Harrison) — who are linked by the fact that she’s the gestational surrogate for his baby — have a memorable exchange about the “ew” factor of some of Allen’s movies, especially when viewed through a progressive, post-#MeToo lens. It’s one of many exchanges in the movie intended to both illustrate the differences between the two and show what they have to offer each other. Matt, fortyish and single, doesn’t want to miss out on any part of fatherhood, so he’s eager to connect with 26-year-old Anna while she carries his child. And Anna, who’s estranged from her family, clearly craves care and compassion underneath her Millennial disaffection. He shows her Friends; she rolls her eyes at his earnestness. It’s a fair exchange.
Another movie might have thrown the two together romantically, but Together Together knows that that’s not the only option — and certainly not the most realistic one — for characters in their circumstances. As a result, their relationship (unlike the ones in the Allen movies they talk about) feels organic and authentic. They share something special, and it’s a pleasure to watch them negotiate the chosen family they’re creating for themselves.
Helms and Harrison are both excellent: He’s more restrained than he often is (but still sweetly vulnerable), and she’s a complex mix of blunt honesty and emotional fragility. Beckwith directs her stars with confidence, making a movie that’s largely about conversation feel dynamic. Brave enough to take romcom conventions and remake them for a new generation, Together Together is a charming story of finding happiness and fulfillment in unexpected places.– Betsy Bozdech
Team #MOTW’s comments:
Loren King It’s a pleasure to watch two gentle comic actors and skilled improvisers create playful, believable, non-sexual chemistry. That’s what Ed Helms and Patti Harrison achieve in the low key, light and lovely “\Together Together.”\ Helms plays Matt, a 40-something, single, nerdy but nice guy whose biological clock is ticking. Harrison is Anna, the sardonic but sensitive millennial he hires as a surrogate. At first awkward and transactional, their connection evolves to watching reruns of Friends, taking birthing classes and figuring out how to be together without being “together.” The actors are so winning that it’s easy to overlook some head scratchers such as how Anna can afford to live in San Francisco on a barista’s wages and why Matt, supposedly a straight guy unlucky in love, never seems to get asked whether he is, in fact, gay. Writer-director Nikole Beckwith creates a relationship movie that’s fresh and unexpected about a natural, caring friendship that’s not based on romantic love but is about love nonetheless.
Sherin Nicole There aren’t enough films about friendship. No sexual tension; no will they, won’t they? Just relatable emotional development between two people who care for each other in ways that don’t require the bumping of external pleasure centers. Is ‘fromance’ a thing? Perhaps it is now. In writer/director Nikole Beckwith’s Together Together a thousand tiny relationship revelations bloom into something that may not last into perpetuity but is lovely in its moment. Patti Harrison and Ed Helms, as Anna and Matt, are awkward and annoying (but cute) in this wry comedy about filling the spaces within the loneliness and having a baby along the way.
Leslie Combemale From the very first frames of Together Together the quirky charm of both characters jumps off the screen. At an age when rom-coms are largely frowned upon, this movie offers the kind of love story to which we can all relate, reminding viewers that platonic love can be every bit as powerful as romantic or familial love. Watching it will be a balm to singles of all ages as the pandemic continues to create feelings of isolation. Traditionally assigned gender roles are, to a large degree, switched for the two lead characters Anna and Matt. It’s particularly wonderful to see co-lead Patti Harrison, a trans actress, playing cis-gendered pregnant Anna. She is well cast, and perfect for the role, proving the producers and casting director of Together Together truly cast based on talent and chemistry. Read full review.
Pam Grady: The rom-com set up is baked into the premise of Nikole Beckwith’s buoyant second feature as a middle-aged San Francisco tech entrepreneur hires a young woman to be his gestational surrogate to give him the family he craves. But as the relationship unfolds between anxious dad-to-be Matt (Ed Helms) and droll Anna (Patti Harrison), the usual tropes give way to a different kind of movie altogether. Instead of a love match, a friendship forms between two people with little in common, drawn together purely by their unusual circumstance. Beckwith scores with an unconventional, funny and sometimes touching buddy movie, propelled by Helm’s and Harrison’s warm, lively performances.
Susan Wloszczyna: Think of Nikole Beckwith’s rather off-beat and charming maternity comedy Together Together as Knocked Up for the enlightened era of wokeness. Instead of two strangers whose drunken one-night stand ends in a pregnancy, we are presented with what is known as a gestational surrogate who agrees to carry a single 40-something man’s baby so that she can finally afford to attend college. Read full review.
Jennifer Merin Together Together, writer/director Nikole Beckwith’s second feature, is a quirky comedy that traces the developing relationship between two socially inept lonely people who are having a baby together. Anna (Patti Harrison) is a single 26-year-old woman who agrees to serve as a baby incubator (surrogate mother) for Matt (Ed Helm), a single 40 year-old gay man who feels the urgent need for family. She’s earning money for college, he’s paying to become a father. But through the nine-month period of the baby’s gestation, their biz deal becomes increasingly personal — and quite intimate in an unpredictable and Platonic sort of way. Harrison and Helm are a charming onscreen duo whose honest performances do justice to the serious nature of surrogacy and the authentic emotional needs of their two beautifully conceived characters. While it delivers a lot of laughs, Together Together is an engaging and spirited expression of positive intersectionality and an entirely genuine, empathetic and compassionate reveal about the human need for connection, approval and community.
Marilyn Ferdinand I’ve always thought maternal surrogacy was a rather disturbing practice. Renting one’s body out to make another human being raises some ethical questions in my mind. Perhaps sensing the problem of pushing “my body, my choice” to its limit, director/screenwriter Nikole Beckwith has fashioned a gentle comedy that makes a point of showcasing male prerogatives and traditional values surrounding childbirth and poking holes in them. Together Together benefits from the chemistry of its two leads, Patti Harrison and Ed Helms, and the inevitable development of a loving friendship between them as, having no one but each other to lean on, they make plans for the arrival of the baby they call “lamp.” A raft of experienced comic actors—Nora Dunn, Fred Melamed, Tig Notaro, and Julio Torres among them—have a few opportunities to shine, but the material they are given is weak. Somewhat more successful are Beckwith’s digs at California culture.
Sandie Angulo Chen: Writer-director Nikole Beckwith’s pregnancy dramedy Together Together is reminiscent of Juno, except more grown-up, less twee, and about surrogacy instead of adoption. Talented comedian Patti Harrison plays 26-year-old coffee-shop manager Anna, whom single 45-year-old app-developer Matt (Ed Helms) selects as his baby’s surrogate. Neither of them is a typical participant in their surrogacy program — he, because he’s a single male, and she because her last pregnancy at age 18 ended in adoption, and all the other surrogates already have families. Since neither of them has a support system, they begin to slowly bond. Beckwith deftly demonstrates how the boundary-pushing relationship between Matt and Anna turns into something that’s more than friendship but also not-quite romantic. There’s a line said twice about two people “who hold hands, eat candy, and continue not sleeping together.” In one instance it refers to a couple in crisis, but later it describes the unique way Anna and Matt relate. Harrison and Helms give memorable performances as two lonely but lovable characters looking for more and finding it thanks to the other.
Marina Antunes The romantic comedy gets a power up in Nikole Beckwith’s effortlessly charming Together Together. Ed Helms is surprisingly lovable and charming as Matt, a single 40-something ready to take the next step in his life: fatherhood. Rather than keep searching for the perfect someone, he opts to go at it alone with the help of a surrogate. Enter Anna, Patti Harrison, a young woman looking to get her life back on tack and she sees surrogacy as a way to get there. What begins as a transactional relationship soon turns into a beautiful and all too real story of friendship and sacrifice. Beckwith’s script is smart and often drifts into too-close-for-comfort reality and its gorgeously brought to life by Helms and Harrison who is absolutely brilliant.
Nell Minow: A perceptive and empathetic portrayal of the challenges of setting boundaries in a relationship between strangers that becomes, perhaps temporarily, profoundly intimate. The capacities of medical technology have moved much faster than the ability of humans to navigate the relationships they make somehow possible and impossible at the same time. Tig Notaro, Rosalind Chao, and Julio Torres are included in the exceptionally strong supporting cast, and Helms, always a more subtle and complex actor than he is usually given credit for, brings enormous heart to the role of a man who just wants to be a father.
Liz Whittemore Ed Helms and Patti Harrison take writer/director Nikole Beckwith’s material and breathe genuinely, nuanced life into it. The emotional intimacy between protagonists Matt and Anna feels organic. This film tackles trust, selfishness, and friendship uniquely. There is no schtick or candy-coated faux romcom nonsense. Together Together is a story of two people getting what they need to get to grow. Helms is charming and grounded as Matt. He made it easy to fall in love with him. Harrison’s portrayal of Anna is so honest it will bring tears to your eyes. Together Together goes right for the heart. It’s about human connection at its most authentic.
Cate Marquis Writer/director Nikole Beckwith’s charming, quirky surrogacy dramedy Together Together turns a lot of expectations on their head. Fellow loners Matt (Ed Helms) and Anna (Patti Harrison) come together when Matt, a single, middle-aged app designer, is looking for a surrogate to carry his child, and selects Anna, another loner, a single 26-year-old looking to make money for college. While it is usually a woman who hears her biological clock ticking, here it is a man who decides to become a single parent. Where surrogacy films have the woman with conflicted feelings about the child, Anna has no such doubts about what she is doing. She is the one who wants to be business-like about it, while papa-to-be Matt is a puddle of emotion. There is a rom-com vibe to the film but the relationship they build is one of friendship rather than romance. Even while the film hits many rom-com marks, Helms and Harrison skillfully spin them around, and end up charming us with their genuine feeling of warmth.
Title: Together Together
Directors: Nikole Beckwith
Release Date: April 23, 2021
Running Time: 90 minutes
Screenwriter: Nikole Beckwith
Stars: Patti Harrison, Ed Helms, Rosalind Chao
Distribution Company: Bleecker Street Media
AWFJ Movie of the Week Panel Members: Sandie Angulo Chen, Marina Antunes, Nikki Baughan, Betsy Bozdech, Leslie Combemale, Marilyn Ferdinand, Pam Grady, MaryAnn Johanson, Loren King, Cate Marquis, Jennifer Merin, Nell Minow, Sherin Nicole, Liz Whittemore, Susan Wloszczyna
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Edited by Jennifer Merin