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Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Blu-ray Review: 'Togetherness: The Complete First Season'

Article first published as Blu-ray Review: 'Togetherness: The Complete First Season' on Blogcritics.

HBO is releasing the freshman run of its indie dramedy next week, Togetherness. Telling the story of four people who are adults but haven’t yet figured out how to be effective grownups yet, it’s a poignant, real look at today’s 30-somethings. It’s hard to follow dreams and still have a stable life and family, but these people are trying, sometimes with hilarious results.

Togetherness feels like an indie film stretched out into eight installments. That’s not surprising, since it comes from indie directors Jay and Mark Duplass (Cyrus). The characters are quirky and complex, as one would expect from the genre, and the situations they get into are grounded and depressing, also in keeping with the style. The humor is often at the expense of the characters, but occasionally there are bright spots for them to keep the whole thing from getting dreary. All together, it makes for an enjoyable show that will leave you pondering your own choices and existence.

The casting of Togetherness is excellent. Mark Duplass (The League, Safety Not Guaranteed) stars as Brett, a man approaching forty who is stressed out by his job, not finding it fulfilling, and having trouble connecting with his wife, Michelle (Melanie Lynskey, Two and a Half Men, Up in the Air). Michelle, for her part, is feeling stuck as a housewife, and seeking her own outlet. Both love one another, but aren’t always sure how to show it, nor have the energy to work on their union. It’s a realistic look at a marriage struggling through the pressures of young children and long working hours.

The second half of the group is made up of Alex (Steve Zissis, Her) and Tina (Amanda Peet, The Good Wife, The Way Way Back), who make Brett and Michelle look totally put together. Despite being roughly the same age as the couple above, neither Alex nor Tina have managed to make a relationship or a career work. Tina is Michelle’s sister and Alex is Brett’s best friend, and after some rough periods, both vie for couch spots in Brett and Michelle’s home. Yet, neither necessarily take their circumstances as the wake up call they need.

Of course, Togetherness being what it is, they can all learn from one another. Alex and Tina know how to take risks, even if they don’t always pay off. Brett and Michelle can teach the other two about stability, even if they aren’t quite sure how to make it work for them. Somewhere in between these varied personalities lies the ideal, but I am perfectly content to watch them struggle with finding it, constantly falling short, but growing in fits and spurts along the way.

Besides the eight half-hour installments, this release contains a handful of bonus features. There are deleted scenes, of course. The Duplass brothers talk about each of the characters and their individual paths, which is interesting, hearing from the creators behind the show. The included interviews and behind-the-scenes stuff with Peet and Zissis is funnier, though doesn’t teach us a whole lot. It’s a small number of extras, but given the size of the season and the content of what is included, seems appropriate.

Admittedly, you might not need to spend the money for the blu-ray version of this. Part of the charm of the series is its imperfections, so it might actually make for a better feel to view it in standard definition DVD. However, I am of the opinion that film should be watched in the highest quality available, and considering Togetherness was filmed and aired in HD, I would recommend the Blu-ray. Plus, the Blu-ray includes a digital copy of the series; the DVD does not.

Togetherness will be available beginning February 16th wherever Blu-rays and DVDs are sold.

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