Dakota Johnson may not be a household name just yet, but folks salivating in anticipation over “Fifty Shades of Grey” which opens next month (just around the time of Valentine’s Day too, yuck), will surely get to know her all too well. Johnson’s put in her Hollywood dues for a few years now, popping up in films like “The Social Network” and “21 Jump Street,” and although she’s never been graced with a particularly memorable role, she’s an agreeable, natural presence in almost everything she’s in.
Johnson is in the new short film “In a Relationship,” in which she plays romantic paramour to a charming young suitor played by fellow Hollywood up-and-comer Nicholas Braun (“Red State,” “The Perks of Being a Wallflower”). Directed by Sam Boyd, the short looks into the lifespan of a hip, young, beautiful couple: with its measured, dry depictions of cuddle sessions, casual dinners and ballooning resentments, the film has an almost Linklater-esque languor, via a laid-back rhythm that savors and observes awkward pauses and wayward digressions.
“I thought it was funny that romantic comedies were always about these made-up problems. ‘I met the perfect guy, but oh no, it turns out he’s a ghost! How is this ever going to work?’ ” director Boyd said in an interview with Vogue magazine. “The idea with ‘In a Relationship’ was to dig deep into the things that really hinder romantic happiness.”
Like a mumblecore update of Woody Allen’s classic “Husbands and Wives,” “In a Relationsip” cleverly utilizes mock-doc footage to contrast the harsh, enervating struggles of this couple with their flowery yet empty declarations of love and affection. The short has a shaggy, agreeably low-key vibe that’s peppered with satisfying offhand jokes (there’s a spot-on “Sopranos” reference early on), and it showcases Santa Monica’s Aero Theatre, one of L.A.’s great old movie houses. Watch the whole thing below: