Emma Roberts and Michael Angarano play an ennui-struck couple in Sam Boyd’s debut.
Two couples try to decide if they should stay together in Sam Boyd’s feature debut, In a Relationship, which is unlikely to inspire many viewers to root strongly for one outcome or the other. A conspicuously photogenic cast lends a commercial sheen to what would otherwise be a rather anemic festival-circuit musing on contemporary romance. With recognizable actors like Emma Roberts in central roles, though, it may see a small return in theaters before joining a thousand similar navel-gazing films on video platforms.
Roberts and Michael Angarano play Hallie and Owen, a Los Angeles couple that manages to move west together from New York while maintaining separate apartments. That sticks in Hallie’s craw: Though she doesn’t seem terribly compatible with Owen — she’ll go with him to a daylong Fourth of July party, only to start whining about leaving at the moment the fireworks start and he perks up — she resents his resistance to cohabitation. Eventually, she brings it up one too many times, and Owen declares that he needs to spend a while on his own.
Meanwhile, the couple’s friends Matt (Patrick Gibson) and Willa (Dree Hemingway) have started hooking up. Though the script gives every indication that this is doomed — she’s presented as a hottie who only cares about indifferent men; he’s a sweet puppy dog — the bulk of the film finds them settling into boyfriend-girlfriend mode.
Will Matt and Willa last? Will Owen and Hallie stumble back into love? It’s hard to get very invested, given Boyd’s uninspired and often unconvincing script. We get scenes of the fellas discussing things on one side and the ladies on the other, all commenting on the unfolding “drama” and making commonplace observations about the nature of modern romance.
We watch as Hallie and Owen try on other amorous possibilities, hers triggering predictable jealousy from Owen, even if they don’t motivate him to take decisive action. (The most comic moment in this non-rom-com finds Owen confronting Hallie and a well-known actor she just met. Offended that they’re on a date at his favorite bar, he tells the actor that his popular TV series has “just lost a viewer” — before reluctantly wishing him good luck for the next season.)
Angarano, who played the younger version of Patrick Fugit’s character in Almost Famous, was born for such underdog parts; he’s miscast as a man who can casually discard a girlfriend he’s so lucky to have, then fill his time with easy-come, easy-go sex. Add this to the similarly unlikely success of Matt (whose mix tapes and overeager romantic gestures ought to have Willa running for the hills), and you don’t have to watch the credits to guess Relationship was written and directed by a man (especially after opening scenes poison our attitudes toward women the film needs us to care about later). Though its tone is amiable and its performances are (mostly) professional, it’s hard to care if these four people live happily ever after or never see each other again.
Production company: 2 Friends Media
Distributor: Vertical Entertainment
Cast: Emma Roberts, Michael Angarano, Patrick Gibson, Dree Hemingway, Greta Lee
Director-screenwriter: Sam Boyd
Producers: Sam Boyd, Jorge Garcia Castro, David Hunter, Ross Putman
Executive producers: Stephen Braun, Emma Roberts, Will Russell-Shapiro
Director of photography: Martim Vian
Production designer: Cindy Chao, Michele Yu
Costume designer: Anais Castaldi, Hannah Greenblatt
Editor: Max Goldblatt