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Hamptons Life

Oct 11, 2011 9:24 AMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Two's A Crowd: A Comedic Documentary

Oct 11, 2011 9:54 AM

Comedy and documentary are two words that are not often spoken together in the same sentence. But there is one funny short doc that will be screening at the “Hamptons International Film Festival” this year: “Two’s A Crowd” by Jim and Tom Isler.

The 20-minute film, which features Allen J. Sheinman, a magazine editor, and Collette Stallone, a former teacher and current jewelry designer, is an oftentimes humorous study of a quirky married Manhattan couple who chose to live apart until financial circumstances forced them to move in together. For the first four years of their marriage, the husband and wife maintained separate residences—he in a studio apartment on West 23rd Street, she in a one-bedroom, rent-controlled, pre-war Greenwich Village apartment with a shower stall in the kitchen—but then came an economic downturn, which forced the two to cohabitate in Ms. Stallone’s tiny apartment.

The offbeat couple, both fiercely independent, chose to turn the apartment into a two-bedroom space—installing sliding doors for privacy. Mr. Sheinman moved in to the living room and Ms. Stallone kept her bedroom, inviting her husband over for sleepovers on the weekends.

Tom Isler (a former Southampton Press writer) became aware of the couple’s story when he worked with Mr. Sheinman at a business trade magazine in Manhattan.

“I met him about two months before he got married, in 2005,” Mr. Isler said during a telephone interview last week. “He was such a funny guy, I knew I needed to make a film about him. I just needed some kind of an excuse, a narrative, to put the camera on him.”

Mr. Isler said that his coworker was open about his unusual living situation with his then-future wife. Their separate dwelling arrangements were frequent fodder for office conversations about the roles that independence and privacy played in a committed relationship.

“Allen joked that he deserved his own movie so I said I would do it if he moved in with his wife,” Mr. Isler said.

Both Mr. Sheinman and Ms. Stallone had been married before and each attributed living in close proximity to their spouses as factors in the failure of their marriages.

For Mr. Sheinman, privacy was an issue deeply rooted in his childhood, according to his biographical statement for the film.

“Born on the Island of Coney in Brooklyn in the waning days of the Truman Administration, Allen shared a bedroom with his parents until the age of 8 (something that seemed perfectly natural until he mentioned it to his shrink around 1993), and then the other bedroom with his sister, Betty, until age 11, when he attained his own bedroom, a life-altering revelation,” his biographical sketch stated.

Traditional ideas of gender roles also played a big part for Ms. Stallone, who had strong feelings about the type of responsibilities she was not willing to take on in a marriage.

“An early childhood remembrance was watching my girlfriend’s mother of six kids, ironing while watching soap operas. I was horrified at the thought of this kind of life and remember thinking it was worse than dying,” she wrote in a biographical statement for the film. “As an adult, I have a different appreciation now for homemakers, but I’m still not sorry that I didn’t become a housewife.”

But it was also the idea of sharing a life so completely that there would be no room for personal space and private time, Ms. Stallone noted, that made separate living arrangements so alluring.

“One thing I notice about many couples is their need to do everything together—even when one partner doesn’t want to; for example, always accompanying someone to visit in-laws. People are afraid to say they want to be by themselves or go by themselves. Many spouses take this personally,” she said. “We give each other a great deal of freedom and are not threatened. I don’t feel the need to be here when he gets home, sometimes we go our separate ways on weekends, and we let each other have our own time with our friends. And let’s face it, sometimes we don’t need to subject our spouse to our friends.”

The couple made the decision to move in together in 2009.

“They moved in together in October, we started shooting in June of that year,” Mr. Isler reported.

Even though the arrangement has taken some adjustment, the couple is still happily married and living in Ms. Stallone’s Grove Street apartment.

“Now that we’re living together, I see I never realized that being married is so intimate. You don’t always get to put your best face forward,” she said. “I always believed that absence makes the heart grow fonder, but that doesn’t apply to my life with Allen.”

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