The first people we meet in Victor Neumark’s bold, intelligent, and often very funny debut feature First Blush are Nena (Rachel Alig) and Drew (Ryan Caraway). They are a young, easy-on-the-eyes married couple living in Los Angeles’ trendy and picturesque Silver Lake area. It’s Nena’s 30th birthday, and Drew has helped to plan a surprise party for his wife at the home of their friends: the motor-mouthed Carrie (Jordan Kopanski) and her fiance John (Christopher Moaney-Lawson) — who’s conversely, well… a man of few words. Although Drew winds up ruining the surprise element of the celebration, Nena still unwraps an unexpected present on her first night as a thirty-something. At the party, the birthday girl’s eyes meet up with those of Olivia (Kate Beecroft), a charismatic, 25-year old beauty who’s a co-worker of Carrie. (Intentionally or not, Alig and Beecroft look enough alike to play sisters, although the quickly established personalities of their characters are as different as can be.) The attraction between the two women is instant, and a subsequent camping trip with five adults and two tents (Figure it out…) leads to a fast friendship between Nena, Drew, and Olivia. Seemingly before you can say “menage a trois”, there’s a “first date” complete with jitters, sexual exploration, and Olivia moving in with the married couple.
As quickly as the characters develop their renegade domestic arrangement, however, things start to unravel just as slowly. Jealousy, insecurities, unresolved interpersonal issues, and the lack of established “rules” all contribute to trouble in the threesome’s self-made paradise. It’s at this point that the character development really begins. As director and writer of First Blush, Victor Neumark doesn’t reveal too much about the characters at the beginning of the movie. We don’t get many deets about Nena and Drew’s relationship as husband and wife (That said, when one of them declares “We never fight!”, it should raise a big red flag for astute viewers…). We also don’t quite understand what leads the spouses to enter a throuple so casually. As the film progresses, however, the complex, three (ahem)-dimensional personalities of Nena, Drew, and Olivia unfold like an old school paper road map. The triangular relationship between the characters may be the film’s “calling card”, but director Neumark never allows the film to rely solely on any shock value from its titillating subject matter– presuming, of course, that there is any shock value left in 2021. Some of the soul-baring moments outside the bedroom, in fact, are often just as provocative as the sex scenes.
First Blush is bolstered by superb, progressively nuanced acting by the three leads, as well as some colorful moments by the supporting characters. As Carrie and John, respectively, Kopanski and Moaney-Lawson make an idiosyncratically gifted comedy team. Riley Ceder is also very good as Olivia’s gay brother Benny, who offers some blunt yet pivotal sociological insight.
In depicting the evolution of the relationship between these two women and one man, First Blush gives us everything: the good, the bad, and the ugly… or at least as “ugly” as it can get given the gorgeously shot California scenery.
First Blush will be available on Tuesday, February 2, 2021, on a number of digital and cable platforms, including iTunes, Amazon Video, Vudu, Comcast, Spectrum, and Cox.