Man loves woman, woman loves man and both love weed.
It’s a love triangle that lacks the makings of a fairy-tale romance, and for the cannabis-craving couple featured in the dark, indie comedy “Newlyweeds,” it’s a three-way affair that spirals from charming to comically tragic.
The film, the debut feature for writer-director Shaka King, focuses on Lyle (Amari Cheatom) and Nina (Trae Harris), a young, unmarried couple living in Brooklyn whose shared penchant for pot — and a lot of pot, at that — leads to a domino effect of glassy-eyed blunders.
Through a smoky haze that permeates throughout the film, “Newlyweeds” begins light-heartedly. Sharing some weed, Nina and Lyle talk of elaborate future plans, dreaming of saving enough money to one day travel to, of all unlikely places, the Galápagos Islands.
But at the end of long days at Lyle’s job repossessing appliances for a rent-to-own appliance store and Nina’s work as a guide at the Brooklyn Children’s Museum, the couple’s aspirations, and moreover their finances, never seem to last beyond the next bag of weed.
Soon enough, Nina and Lyle’s drug-induced bliss unravels after an array of marijuana-related mishaps begin to mount. Lighting up during work causes Lyle to repo a sofa from the wrong house. Later, a frantic, late-night search for marijuana lands Lyle in handcuffs after he inadvertently gets caught up buying crack instead. Trouble finds Nina after her pot-laced brownies are stolen from her bag at the museum and eaten by several children.
From there the relationship sours; Nina is forced to move home under the watchful eye of her parents while Lyle turns to alcohol and scraping for nickels. In the end, it appears the weed does not love them back.
While not a “stoner flick” or, conversely, a “Reefer Madness”-esque cautionary tale, King said “Newlyweeds” offers an honest look at the stoner experience.
“There hasn’t been a movie about adults smoking marijuana that has been made for an adult audience,” he said. “It’s the most true movie about what it is to be addicted to marijuana.”
A Brooklyn native and graduate of the film department at New York University, King said the movie takes after his own life, the Brooklyn neighborhood he grew up in and of course marijuana.
“The film is just as much about the culture of this neighborhood as it is about my fondness, and the character’s fondness, for the leaf, which sometimes we can be a bit too fond of,” King said.
King added that while he is unabashedly a marijuana user himself, he hopes the film’s loose, arthouse feel and cultured characters appeal to audiences, whether they use or not.
“For people who don’t get high or have never gotten high, we wanted to make a movie that would get them high,” he said. “We wanted to make it a very colorful movie.”
Some bigger, more colorful moments in the film come during Lyle’s stoned hallucinations when he takes on a roll in his imaginary film “Tough Guys” — an homage to the blaxploitation films of the 1970s.
“Newlyweeds” premiered in January 2013 at the Sundance Film Festival and was released theatrically in September. The film is now available on DVD or through a number of digital platforms, including Comcast On Demand, Amazon Instant Video, Netflix and iTunes.