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Movie review: 'Between Us' makes a mess of 2 marriages

For all the talking that occurs in the tedious drama "Between Us," little of substance is actually said. What's left is an unpleasant visit with a pair of hateful married couples who, in due time, prove mirror images of one another. Symmetry has rarely been so dispiriting.

Although producer-director Dan Mirvish, who co-wrote with Joe Hortua (based on Hortua's play), tries to open up the film with sporadic flashbacks and outdoor moments, it remains a stagey chamber piece with "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" pretensions.

The story ping-pongs between two game-changing encounters. The first finds nicely bonded New York bohemians Grace (Julia Stiles) and Carlo (Taye Diggs) visiting upscale old friends — and new, first-time parents — Joel (David Harbour) and Sharyl (Melissa George) at the latter's Midwest McMansion where the "for worse" part of their marriage vows are playing out. Flash-forward to Manhattan a few years later where Joel and Sharyl, now on surer marital footing, surprise-visit Grace and Carlo, currently embattled due to crushing debt and the stress of a newborn. Suffice to say, the vitriol that goes down in both scenarios won't win any new converts to the institution of marriage — or of friendship.

The performers fully commit to their unlikable parts but, at least as written, even the best actors couldn't create compelling, relatable characters out of this messed-up bunch.

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"Between Us"

MPAA rating: None

Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Playing: At the Downtown Independent, Los Angeles

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