Review: ‘Together Together’ is the feel-good pregnancy dramedy you’re not expecting at all

“Together Together” is a big warm hug of a movie, a pregnancy dramedy that upends expectations and pulls on your heart strings with a tale of two very different best friends.

Written and directed by Nikole Beckwith, “Together Together” (★★★ out of four; rated R; in theaters Friday) makes the most of Ed Helms’ earnest, good-guy vibes and introduces Patti Harrison (“Shrill”) to mainstream moviegoers as an enjoyable new comedic talent. Their chemistry meshes with Beckwith’s clever script, which takes on May/December love stories and romantic-comedy tropes, for a wonderfully deep narrative about human connection.

Matt (Helms) is a 45-year-old single tech dude – so single that his latest work is an app called Loner – who wants to be a dad. He hires Anna (Harrison), a 25-year-old barista, to be his gestational surrogate. Their first few meetings, from therapy sessions to a get-to-know-you dinner, are painfully awkward: Matt’s a guy whose nervous energy and oddball enthusiasm initially annoys more than appeals, and he’s thrown by Anna’s dry, snarky sense of humor. And while Anna is mentally prepared for being a surrogate, she’s put off by Matt’s overbearing nature which includes him coming around her job trying to give her pregnancy tea and comfy clogs.

Wanted to be a dad, a 40-something bachelor (Ed Helms) hires a young surrogate (Patti Harrison) in the comedy "Together Together." (Photo: TIFFANY ROOHANI VIA SUNDANCE INSTITUTE)

But gradually, as the movie moves through three trimesters, Matt and Anna form a close bond and grow on each other. They pick out a color for the baby’s room (they call the kid “Lamp” to be non-gender-specific because they don’t want to know the sex) and binge-watch “Friends.” And they have frank discussions about their own differences and the world: When Matt says it wouldn’t be that weird if they were a real couple, Anna launches into a takedown of Woody Allen movies with older men and young lovers that Matt can’t dispute.

Just as in life, of course, not everything goes smoothly, and they navigate the ups and downs of boundary issues and outside parties’ views of their unconventional relationship.

Harrison is a joy to watch and she lends Anna a reserved nature and droll delivery that belies a lot of what’s going on with the character internally. She really comes alive during the rare windows where Anna allows people to see who she really is, usually in scenes opposite Helms’ Matt. One instance finds the platonic pair lying on a bed and coming clean about their feelings that’s super-sweet and not at all cloying or even remotely sexual.

Matt (Ed Helms) and Anna (Patti Harrison) navigate boundary issues and form a close bond in "Together Together." (Photo: TIFFANY ROOHANI)

Helms is also an important cog in this effort, and it’s a career highlight for the former “Office” star. He’s played the underdog everyman before, like in “The Hangover” films and the recent “Vacation” reboot, yet he’s at the height of his likable powers here. Matt’s alone, much out of choice – same with Anna – and while a similar character might be seen as a loser in any another movie, Matt attacks that stereotype head on during an honest convo with Anna about wanting to be a bachelor dad: “It’s weird to be perceived as hopeless in this moment when I’m actually incredibly hopeful.”

In some ways, the movie suffers when they’re not together on screen because Harrison and Helms are such a great team, garnering fun supporting help from Tig Notaro as their therapist and Julio Torres as Anna’s co-worker Jules. There’s a lot refreshing and new about “Together Together,” from how it celebrates Matt and Anna’s individual idiosyncrasies to offering an ending that’s more thoughtful than you might think.

Really, the only thing you can expect from this surprising, heartfelt film is to feel good afterward.

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