There’s something inherently masterful about the performances of both Wyatt Cenac and Greta Lee in writer/director Laura Terruso’s Fits and Starts. It’s the kind of movie that could be playing in the background with the sound off, but even casual glances would lead you to believe exactly what was going on with little doubt.
Cenac plays David, a struggling writer who’s working to establish himself beyond the short story he wrote for the New Yorker some years back. Lee plays his wife, Jennifer, who is finding fame and notoriety in the world of writing after the success of her latest novel.
David’s understandably insecure about his role in their relationship, constantly feeling as though he’s invisible in the eyes of her colleagues. Jennifer, on the other hand, blames David for his own self-perceived problems, and finds herself just a bit too caught up in her own world to really understand what he’s going through.
Though she does offer David a solution: come to her publisher’s house in Connecticut for a WASP-y gathering of East Coast liberals to help get himself out there.
It’s also where the problem starts to arise. David forgets the wine on the counter, and thanks to Connecticut’s restrictive liquor laws, they have to venture back to their home state of New York to procure a proper bottle. After constant bickering, they end up separated, and David, on the advice from some local cops (brilliantly played by Sam Seder and Larry Murphy), decides to attend the party in hopes that she’ll already be there.
With Jennifer off on her own agenda, the film mostly stays with Richard, as he finds himself stuck with a gathering of pretentious, downright insufferable artists. It’s here that Cenac continues his quiet, understated performance as a fish-out-of-water with a kind of subdued expertise, telling his character’s story through facial expressions and raised eyebrows.
Overall, Fits and Starts is a film that uses two writers to juxtapose the idea of couples not communicating effectively with one-another, and creates a wry, effortlessly charming romantic comedy.