Monday, February 5, 2018

Brian Crano's adult rom-com, PERMISSION, explores a few do's-and-don't's for couples

I hope that Tao Ruspoli, creator of the recent doc, Monogamish, has the chance to see PERMISSION, the new rom-com-drama by writer/director Brian Crano, because the concerns of each film are similar enough -- even if the roads taken by the two movie-makers prove very different. Crano's latest full-lengther (after his remarkable debut with A Bag of Hammers from 2011) is all about what happens to a 30-something couple -- who've been together practically since adolescence and who have never had sex with anyone except each other -- when a drunken pal one night suggests that they at least try another sexual partner before cementing their relationship with marriage and/or children.

Mr. Crano, pictured at left, is smart enough not to make things too easy for our very attractive couple, played with ever-evolving surprise, wit, charm and great appeal by Rebecca Hall and Dan Stevens. (shown below and on poster, above). Both actors have already shown us numerous times, how versatile and adept they are, so this is yet another feather in the caps of both.

Though they manage to rather quickly find attractive playmates outside their relationship, their ability to adjust to the newness and thrill of all this, as well as to the jealousy and fear involved is seeing your partner stray, are given their due--and then some.

She -- a music student as well as teacher -- finds a very hunky young musician (French-Canadian actor François Arnaud. below, right) to bed and maybe more,

while he -- a furniture maker with a thriving business -- quickly turns an older-woman client (Gina Gershon, below) into a bedmate, as well as his tutor into a new world of sex, drugs, and letting go. (How good it is to see Ms Gershon given a role with some variety and surprise, and then see her fill it so well.)

Fair enough. But where (and how and why) does our experimenting couple go from here? The journey, of course, is what lends the movie its real interest, and if Crano makes a couple of false moves in the dialog area (Stevens last line about "growing up" is one that his character would never have concluded so quickly, nor does it need to be underscored this heavily), the filmmaker manages to take a subject fraught with dangers of both overkill and under-cooking, and make of it one of the more interesting and disquieting lessons on love and relationships that the movies have provided of late.

Ms Hall (above) is a pleasure to see in one of her more lighthearted roles (initially, at least), while Mr. Stevens (below) continues to stretch and grow. A side plot involving gay partners in which one of the men wants to adopt a baby in some ways mirrors the growing change happening in the Hall/Stevens relationship. Morgan Spector, David Joseph Craig and Jason Sudeikis bring this situation to fine life.

We've seen enough films by now about open marriage, sexual experimentation, and the like -- from Design for Living through Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice to last year's Professor Marston and the Wonder Women -- that a filmmaker tackling this anew must provide some thought and depth to go along with the titillation. Crano manages this by forcing us to see that if you decide to experiment, you'd better be willing to evolve.

From Good Deed Entertainment and running 96 minutes, Permission opens this Friday, February 9, in New York City (and the Village East Cinema) and in Los Angeles (at the AMC Sunset and Arena Cinelounge), and elsewhere. Click here to view all currently scheduled playdates, cities and theaters.

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