Emma Forrest’s debut feature, Untogether, starring the likes of Jemima and Lola Kirke, Billy Crystal, and Ben Mendelsohn, is an aggressively banal film. Not all of it is necessarily bad per se, but Forrest, who owns both directing and writing credit for the film, has a better handle on the latter than the former. The filmmaking here is glossy, unfussy, and fundamentally undemanding. She relies on her coterie of established actors to propel much of the action, with Forrest providing ample space for them to maneuver within their posh L.A. settings. But as a writer, her propensity for grandiose, cliché gestures and frequent, truculent narrative twists make the whole endeavor a painfully disenchanting chore to sit through.
Centered on two sisters and their toxic relationships with men, the film is most persuasive when it follows Tara (Lola Kirke), a spa therapist. She’s dating a former rock band frontman named Martin (Ben Mendelsohn) while she attempts to reexamine her faith. She joins a temple, with services led by Rabbi David (Billy Crystal). The two form a close bond, resulting in exactly what you’d expect. Meanwhile, her sister Andrea (Jemima Kirke), a one-time author now struggling to piece together material for a second novel, is typically sleeping around with different men. She meets Nick (Jamie Dornan), a physician that recently published a successful memoir, and immediately becomes drawn to him despite the initial casual parameters by which they agreed to see each other.
So, you have a relationship drama with this quintet of mostly capable actors and it’s just embarrassing and frankly painful to see them attempt to imbue this material with any measure of nuance or sophistication. I mean, this is a film that finds one of its characters shave his beard as a means of conveying emotional growth. Or consider the trite intercutting of infidelities as the film’s climax. Or the vapid attempt at narrative closure involving a feline sex change. Even the film’s strangest sequence, Lola Kirke consuming cucumber slices as a means of coping with emotional rejection, is played without a modicum of good humor. Forrest strains to say something Big and Important about the nature of relationships and our insignificance within a sphere of self-entitlement and privilege, yet goes about it in the most self-entitled and privileged away imaginable. As a filmmaker, she’s capable. But this script is so woefully pedestrian that it casts a pall on the whole exercise and takes everything down with it.