The Bye Bye Man
The Bye Bye Man is the kind of film that is so boring and bereft of anything of possible interest that it becomes infuriating.
"Newlyweeds" is a film out of its time. Will audiences have the patience for it—or even know how to watch it? I hope so, because it's a special movie. Odd, disjointed and not entirely coherent, but special.
You could describe it as an indie drama about a furniture repo man named Lyle (Amari Cheatom) and a museum tour guide named Nina (Trae Harris), and how their pot dependence bonds them to each other but keeps them from advancing in life. You could also compare it to Spike Lee's "She's Gotta Have It," not just because it concentrates on a predominantly African-American slice of Brooklyn's single community, but because writer-director Shaka King, like Lee before him, has the eye of a poet but the sensibilities of a journalist and seems content to leave it at that. He doesn't seem too interested in telling a neatly interwoven story in which one thing leads to another, and it all builds to a neat, satisfying conclusion.
But in a film about stoners, a certain feeling of inertia might be inevitable, and "Newlyweeds" embraces it. It's expertly written, directed, shot, acted and edited, and even though it wears out its welcome about halfway through, there's always something fascinating to look at or listen to, plus a sense of promise that lends the whole project more goodwill than it might otherwise inspire.
This is a film of vignettes, many of which feel as self-contained as shorts or sketch comedy bits. Lyle and his partner Jackie (Tone Tank) devise convoluted schemes to repossess a couch or a refrigerator and carry them out with the "Seriously, like that would actually work?" bravado of 1970s TV cops playing dress-up. At one point Lyle poses as a guy who could be an Afrocentric jazz philosopher, his obviously phony beard and mustache dangling from his face like curtain fringe. Lyle and Nina smoke and smoke and smoke as they talk about the present and future of their relationship, including the trips they may never take together ("How we supposed to go to the Galapagos if you're buying a bag every two minutes?" she asks him). There are effective slapstick set pieces: Nina being mortifyingly careless with a bag of pot brownies; an exasperated, weed-craving Lyle wandering the neighborhood for bud and being mistaken for a crackhead, and a mordantly funny jail cell scene that evokes the counterculture-infused comedies of Robert Downey, Sr. and the early underground comix of R. Crumb.