Redefining marriage, monogamy and love

Will not-so-newlyweds Collette and Allen figure out how to live together? Photo courtesy of the filmmakers

Documentary tells tale of romance threatened by cohabitation

BY LILY BOUVIER

Unlike most couples, when husband and wife Allen J. Sheinman and Collette Stallone finally moved in together, it wasn’t into the same bedroom. “He’s gonna stay in his room the weeknights. On Friday, Saturday and maybe Sunday, he can come into my room,” says Collette of their new arrangement. She has dibs on the bedroom. Allen’s room: the former living room.

Meet Allen: “I’m 59 years old, and I’m a Libra.” And meet Collette: “I’m 55 years old, and I’m a New Yorker. I like corned beef. I like an egg cream.” The two are “trying the experiment in cohabitating,” as Allen puts it. And in Tom and Jim Isler’s short film “Two’s a Crowd,” this experiment is observed, documented and reported.

If you find that odd, then this film is sure to overturn your entire notion of what marriage, monogamy and love can look like. The couple had been married for more than four years (and together for nine) when they finally took the plunge into cohabitation.

Before that, they were happy to live separately (Collette in her one-bedroom in the Village and Allen in his studio apartment in Chelsea). They married late in life — and besides, cohabitation just doesn’t seem to be their style. Collette explains, “When you’re young, you go ‘Oh, we’re so in love, oh!’ Now, it’s like, listen: I love you, but you need your space. I need my space.” Of their arrangement, she adds, “I say it’s great. I go home when I want. I do what I want. I don’t have to do his laundry!”

But when paying rent for two apartments is no longer within reason, they finally decide to take the plunge, living together in Collette’s rent-stabilized apartment.

Will the experiment result in a gruesome fallout between folks who just need their own territory, or will they figure out how to share the space? Collette’s not so sure, even about the smallest matters. “Sharing newspapers — are you kidding? It could break up a marriage, how you read a newspaper! Separate newspapers,” she declares.

Both Allen and Collette are quirky and vivacious. Their relationship is intriguing, and truly delightful to witness. That’s where brothers Tom and Jim Isler come into play.

Back when Tom worked at “Meetings & Conventions” magazine, Allen was his managing editor. Even before hearing the couple’s story, Tom was intrigued by Allen’s disposition. “Allen was an extremely witty guy who seemed destined for the big screen. I knew he’d be a great character for a documentary. I just needed some narrative frame to put him in, some excuse to tell a story about him,” Tom says. “For years before we actually made the film, I used to joke with him that I’d like to make a movie about him someday, but only if he moved in with his wife. At the time, we never thought that day would come.”

But then, in October of 2009, it did.

Tom, 29, and Jim, 32, have a long history of collaborative filmmaking, going all the way back to when they were kids. For this most recent project of theirs, the brothers shot, edited and directed as a team, and “did basically all of the work.” The result is a terrifically fun 20 minutes.

The final portion of the film revisits Collette and Allen close to five months after their big move. To their own surprise, the couple has managed to survive the experiment (they’re even happy in it). “Now we know that everyone else had it right,” Collette remarks. “I wouldn’t go that far,” says Allen — who points out that they’re still not doing marriage “the way most people do it.”

Tom says he hopes, in the end, “that the film forces audiences to question assumptions they hold about what marriage is, and how couples are supposed to act.” It’s “a reminder,” he says, “that marriage is intensely personal and hyper-specific to the individuals involved.”

For Allen and Collette, the art of cohabitation boils down to having their own spaces (“the fallback of a personal sanctuary,” as Isler calls it). Of course, they also enjoy one another’s company. As Allen says, “If I were just in this for being apart, I don’t think I’d go through the effort. I could do that on my own.”

As the film comes to a close, the couple prepares for bed on a typical evening, exchanging shouts of “Love ya’ hun!” and “Good night!” across the apartment as each flicks off their own bedroom light.

TWO’S A CROWD
Directed by Tom and Jim Isler
At the New York City International Film Festival
Wed., Aug. 24, 6pm
At the Abingdon Theatre (312 W. 36th St., btw. 8th & 9th Aves.)
For tickets ($5), visit nyciff.com
For info, visit gloamingpictures.com

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4 Responses to Redefining marriage, monogamy and love

  1. Monogamish? u00a0Good word. u00a0It works, too. u00a0I have been married over 43 years in that kind of situation. u00a0It's wonderful for both of us. u00a0If one of us has "gone out" for an adventure, that one comes home and tells the other all about it. u00a0Sometimes the discussion leads to good suggestions for next time, too!u00a0

  2. I am so glad I read this article. It brings me want to try and work this out with someone I know. I really think this could work especially in these hard economic times we live in. We see each other mostly during the week, and on the weekends, we do our own thing. We live in seperate places. I would really like tou00a0try thisu00a0but there is a couple of drawbacks. Would like some advice.nu00a0We are very intimate when we are together. We are older, over 50 yo. We do have very deep feelings for one another, but do to the monogamos sanctity of marraigeu00a0on my part, I have hangups. It is called,"The green monster, jealousy.u00a0I want to learn commitment, instead of jealousy.nWe have both been married, and lost our spouses. He had a friend that lived in with him tou00a0help take care of his wife.u00a0This female was still living with him after his wifes death. Meanwhile, we had met, and there was this special connection, can't really explain it.u00a0We both had decided that due to the time, and circumstances, we should part. I went with someone else, moved away for 3 years, and we would e-mail each other for awhile. I would ask,"Are you still living with her?" and he would ask,"Are you still with him?" Time went on, and my relationship I was in came to an end. I was online one day and sent an e-mail to say hi. We talked and talked. just like we never left each other. He told me that even though he was still with someone it was more of just a living arrangement and the bond is not there with her, it had been with me, but we lost touch when I moved away. We see each othe 3-5 days a week and enjoy each others company emensencely. We have a bond, a soul mate connection that is a rare find. Now, the thing is, he still feels au00a0frienship type connection u00a0to this other person who he lives with, and is with her week nights and weekends. He has a large house, could easily seperate living arrangements with seperate bedrooms, and livingroom, but would have to share kitchen.nI just don't know if this situation would work, and would like some advice.

  3. I am so glad I read this article. It brings me want to try and work this out with someone I know. I really think this could work especially in these hard economic times we live in. We see each other mostly during the week, and on the weekends, we do our own thing. We live in seperate places. I would really like tou00a0try thisu00a0but there is a couple of drawbacks. Would like some advice.nu00a0We are very intimate when we are together. We are older, over 50 yo. We do have very deep feelings for one another, but do to the monogamos sanctity of marraigeu00a0on my part, I have hangups. It is called,”The green monster, jealousy.u00a0I want to learn commitment, instead of jealousy.nWe have both been married, and lost our spouses. He had a friend that lived in with him tou00a0help take care of his wife.u00a0This female was still living with him after his wifes death. Meanwhile, we had met, and there was this special connection, can’t really explain it.u00a0We both had decided that due to the time, and circumstances, we should part. I went with someone else, moved away for 3 years, and we would e-mail each other for awhile. I would ask,”Are you still living with her?” and he would ask,”Are you still with him?” Time went on, and my relationship I was in came to an end. I was online one day and sent an e-mail to say hi. We talked and talked. just like we never left each other. He told me that even though he was still with someone it was more of just a living arrangement and the bond is not there with her, it had been with me, but we lost touch when I moved away. We see each othe 3-5 days a week and enjoy each others company emensencely. We have a bond, a soul mate connection that is a rare find. Now, the thing is, he still feels au00a0frienship type connection u00a0to this other person who he lives with, and is with her week nights and weekends. He has a large house, could easily seperate living arrangements with seperate bedrooms, and livingroom, but would have to share kitchen.nI just don’t know if this situation would work, and would like some advice.

  4. Allen J. Sheinman

    Hey Lily, thanks for such a nice and thoughtful piece. Allen (of Allen & Collette).

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