In the ever-evolving landscape of cinema, writer-director Noah Pritzker takes a step back from the spotlight with his latest offering, “Ex-Husbands.” The film, which recently premiered at the San Sebastian Film Festival, offers an intimate yet somewhat meandering exploration of the lives and relationships of privileged, middle-aged men.
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Exploring Midlife Neurosis
Pritzker’s film delves into the intricacies of male midlife neurosis, a theme that has long been a subject of cinematic exploration. With “Ex-Husbands,” he introduces us to Peter Pearce, portrayed with affable charm by Griffin Dunne. Peter’s journey begins when his father, Simon (played by Richard Benjamin), drops a bombshell—after 65 years of marriage, he’s decided to divorce Peter’s mother, seeking a fresh start in his mid-80s. The math may not add up, but Simon’s mind is made up.
A Mexican Getaway
Fast forward six years, and Simon’s optimism has faded, landing him in a care home, while Peter grapples with his own impending divorce from Maria (Rosanna Arquette). Peter’s decision to escape to the Mexican resort town of Tulum for a short break coincides with his son Nick’s bachelor party. Little does Peter know that this getaway shares the same date and destination as Nick’s celebration.
Unveiling Secrets and Relationships
As the plot unfolds, secrets emerge and relationships take unexpected turns. Nick (James Norton) is harboring a secret from his family and friends: his relationship with his fiancée is on the rocks because he hasn’t managed to “get his act together.” The film also explores the romantic interests of other characters, with Peter’s mild flirtation with Eileen (Eisa Davis) and Mickey’s (Miles Heizer) clandestine relationship with Arroyo (Pedro Fontaine).
Balancing Comedy and Melancholy
“Ex-Husbands” treads the fine line between comedy and melancholy, offering viewers a mix of humor and introspection. While the setup is ripe with dramatic potential, Pritzker’s screenplay often opts for a more subdued approach, favoring rueful anticlimaxes over intense conflicts. The characters, while broadly sympathetic, lack the depth and specificity that could have enriched their stories.
A Polite and Friendly Tale
The film’s tone is best described as polite and friendly, but it lacks the sharpness and astringency found in works by directors like Woody Allen and Noah Baumbach. Instead, it settles into a comfortable groove, cushioned by Rob Coudert’s unobtrusive score.
The Path Forward
As “Ex-Husbands” meanders through the lives of its male characters, it leaves viewers with a sense of wistfulness and the possibility of personal growth on the horizon. Yet, it refrains from offering concrete resolutions, allowing its characters to navigate life’s curveballs in their own enigmatic ways.
In a cinematic landscape often dominated by bombastic blockbusters, “Ex-Husbands” offers a quieter, more contemplative experience. While it may not break new ground in the realm of midlife crisis narratives, it provides an amiable glimpse into the lives of men facing the challenges of aging and changing relationships.
As with any film, “Ex-Husbands” will find its audience—those who appreciate its gentle storytelling, affable characters, and the universal theme of navigating life’s uncertainties. For those seeking a respite from the cinematic mainstream, Pritzker’s latest work may well prove to be a satisfying diversion.