“Permission” – The definition of permission is consent; authorization; an official document giving authorization.
For Anna (Rebecca Hall) and Will (Dan Stevens), a happy, New York City couple in their early 30s, they have been together forever and own solid plans for their future. They are not yet engaged, but a permanent commitment is a foregone conclusion, as they live in a nice apartment, while also renovating a spacious brownstone, presumably to house a number of kids someday. Anna is finishing up her academic work and Will owns a lucrative furniture company with his friend, Reece (Morgan Spector).
Life is good, and Christmas – a very festive time in The Big Apple – is just around the corner. Life is not only good, but it is known and planned. That all changes after one night of dinner and drinks with Reece and his partner Hale (David Joseph Craig), when a seed is planted in Anna’s and Will’s heads, and they decide to give each other permission to sleep with other people before they get married. Since they are each other’s only sexual partners, this makes perfect sense, right? What could go wrong?
Writer/director Brian Crano’s picture dives headfirst into infidelity, a subject tackled thousands and thousands of times in movie theatres over the decades, but in this case, both man and woman give each other permission to cheat, to experience intimacy with another or others. Cautious consent sans an official document, but officially, they are both unsure about this proposition but move towards other partners anyway.
Hall and Stevens play likable enough characters as Anna and Will, and this is terribly important – because of the familiar themes – for this picture to work. From the get-go, however, the overall story arc is also terribly predictable. Therefore, the way to absorb this film – at least for this critic – is to experience their journeys and see if they carry the movie to the finish line. For most part, they do, but Hall does most of the heavy lifting, because Anna undergoes the most growth.
Anna certainly is curious about exploring intimacy with other men but is the more reluctant one. She deeply values the relationship and the security, comfort and love that it brings, but Will provides an emotional push for her to meet other men.
Will, on the hand, is more encouraged by their plan, but his time is more troubled, more problematic. He is also the emotionally shakier of the two, so he does not possess Anna’s inner strength. In a way, both actors are perfectly cast for the film, but this is Hall’s movie with Anna’s more spiritual path.
Along the film’s 1-hour 36-minute path, one certainly learns some important facts in Anna’s and Will’s world. First, apparently in New York City, anyone can get a date within a few minutes of approaching anyone. Absolutely anyone, but speak to anybody who has attempted online dating or tried meeting a potential partner at a local Whole Foods or neighborhood pub. It’s not quite that easy…by a long shot. Also, apparently every single eligible man under the age of 35 – in this film – sports a beard. Sure, one might suspect that facial hair is a popular grooming technique today, but razor blades still exist in 2018, right? Well, mullets were the gold standard hairstyle of the 1980s, so perhaps this fad will eventually pass as well.
One fad that should never pass is any on-screen presence of Gina Gershon. She makes a welcomed appearance and, of course, brings an edgy sex appeal that has never wavered during her big screen career. At 55, Gershon remains eternally ageless, and her character, Lydia, is a wonderful, fascinating love interest for the over-his-head Will. Spector and Craig also garner a lot of screen time, as they struggle with their serious disagreement about starting a family, and Jason Sudeikis makes a thoughtful, understated turn with some words of wisdom that could help.
In the end, “Permission” does not break a lot of new ground or offer an abundance of wisdom, but Crano offers a good reminder about the importance of commitment, fidelity, honesty, and trust. In 2018, it’s as good a time as any for these moral prompts during our own pursuits of love and more importantly, our actions once we get there.
⭐⭐ 1/2 out of ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Image credits: Good Deed Entertainment; Trailer credits: FilmTrailerZone (YouTube)