“Newlyweeds,” the unfortunately-titled, unsentimental but comic Bedstuy-set doper romcom, written and directed by Shaka King, got a mixed response at Sundance, a friendlier one at BAM, and deserves to draw some crowds at Film Forum where it’s having its theatrical premiere, September 18 through October 1.
Nina (performance artist Trae Harris) and Lyle (Amari Cheatom, briefly seen in “Django Unchained”) are an engaging couple of happy hopheads. She’s a funky-chic middle-class refugee, working part-time as guide at the Brooklyn Children’s Museum, he’s a good-looking long-suffering repo man; their main leisure activity seems to be lying around smoking pot and fantasizing about a trip to the Galapagos Islands.
Darwin notwithstanding, Lyle is not particularly adapted to reality. Often exasperated and generally unlucky, he’s maced and punched on the job; beat when he scores and consequently busted. (His night in the holding pen makes for one of the movie’s great set pieces.) Nina gets busted too (after some school kids at the museum eat her hash brownies), precipitating a crisis in the relationship. King’s NYU thesis is something of a flaming anti-marijuana tract as well as a super-sad love story.
Opens in a reefer haze and taking a few scenes to finds its footing, “Newlyweeds” is a movie of excellent riffs, understated timing, and memorable performances (Colman Domingo makes a fabulous spectacle of himself as Nina’s colleague) Each year the New York Film Critics Circle votes a best first film; “Newlyweeds” (really, just about any title would have been better except “Snuggles with Muggles”) is pretty close to first on my list.