The new comedy Together Together, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival on January 31, features two stars whose careers are sort of going in opposite directions. Ed Helms had a movie star run that seemed to have petered out a few years ago, while the other lead, Patti Harrison, is on her way up, having played memorable roles in everything from Shrill to I Think You Should Leave to A Simple Favor.
The two are starring together in Together Together, a surrogacy comedy, directed by Nikole Beckwith, that looks and feels like a rom-com, even though ultimately isn’t one.
Up until last year’s drama The Surrogate, and the Tina Fey/Amy Poehler comedy Baby Mama, surrogacy isn’t a subject that the movies have done a lot with in the past, except for a few TV movies about the “Baby M” case and things like that, although Curb Your Enthusiasm did tackle the subject in an early-season episode.
The biggest takeaway from Together Together? Patti Harrison is a star. And while Helms is just fine, he’s also playing a character who’s about one-tenth as interesting as Harrison’s. Harrison is also a trans woman, making this something of a groundbreaking instance of a trans performer not only portraying a cis woman in a lead role in a movie but one who gets pregnant and has a baby.
The film gets right to the point: Helms, a single guy in his late 40s who decides to father a child on his own, while Harrison plays a young woman who becomes his surrogate. Together Together follows the two of them throughout the pregnancy, as they establish (and flout) boundaries and develop a friendship.
One thing that’s a bit of a weakness in the film is that there’s nothing especially compelling about Helms’ character’s backstory. He’s an app developer, a job that apparently never requires him to go to work, he’s suffered some heartbreak in the past, and he’s got an extended coterie of parents and step-parents, led by Fred Melamed and Nora Dunn.
Harrison’s character, however, comes from a fascinating place- she got pregnant in high school and gave the baby up for adoption, leading to her becoming estranged from her family, and then she decides in her late 20s to get pregnant again. We also see her struggling with the complex feelings that come with carrying a baby and, once again, giving it up. Harrison, best known until now as a stand-up comedian and supporting player, and guest star on TV comedy shows nails all of this and indicates that she’s got a future as a lead actress.
Well-rendered as the character is, Anna’s pop culture knowledge, is all over the place. She had never seen Friends before, yet she’s completely familiar with Woody Allen’s 1970s filmography. (The film, while calling out Woody for creepiness in the dialogue, nevertheless uses something strongly resembling the Woody Allen font in its opening and closing credits.”)
Julio Torres, the comedian, former Saturday Night Live writer and creator of Los Espookys, has a scene-stealing turn as Harrison’s coworker, and Anna Konkle from Pen15 and comedian Tig Notaro also show up.
But the film, which will be released by Bleeker Street at some point in 2021, is Patti Harrison’s show. She gives one of the better performances of the Sundance festival and essentially carries Together Together.
The first-ever “virtual” Sundance Film Festival runs from January 28 – February 3. Check back for our daily coverage and visit the festival’s official website for more information.