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Sunday, 27 June 2010

Lymelife (2008)

This morning I attended a preview of this low-budget indie movie which was released Stateside last year and which is now being given a British release -- not that I can see it raking in many shekels. That's a shame on certain levels, since this debut effort from director Derick Martini from a script co-written with his brother has much to commend it. However neither its coming-of-age story nor the melodramatics of suburban life on 1970s Long Island is likely to attract the summer movie crowd looking for 3D extravaganzas and big bangs. Still it is well worth a look, as I am sure Martin Scorsese (one of the films 14 producers!) would agree.

The story follows two neighbouring families. The first of these consists of father Alec Baldwin who is making a success of building affordable housing (his developments are intended as a latter-day Levittowns), his very Catholic wife played by Jill Hennessy, and their two sons, real-life brothers Rory and Kieran Culkin. I didn't recognize Hennessy who is primarily a TV actress, but I guess one could describe Baldwin nowadays as a TV actor! Rory, the younger Culkin, is effectively the lead, the bullied high school student left in the bickering household after his older brother joins the army. The natural affection between them in real life comes across in the film as well,; both are excellent, although neither has made as huge a cinematic mark as their big brother Macauley. The second family unit consists of father Timothy Hutton, suffering from rampant Lyme disease which causes erratic behaviour and left him jobless, flighty and impatient Mum Cynthia Nixon (ex SATC), and too wise for her years teenaged daughter Emma Roberts, on whom Rory has had an unrequited crush.

Not a lot happens but the angst is palpable. Baldwin and Nixon are indulging in an illicit affair, the most current of the many Baldwin has pursued. The difference is that this time it is obvious to all three children, causing the soldier Culkin to fall out with his father, Hennessy to finally give up on her errant husband, and for the young Culkin and Roberts to experiment with supposedly grown-up pleasures. Even Hutton, in a virtuoso performance, is aware that he is losing his family and in all probability his sanity -- all from the bite of a little tick on his last hunting trip with Baldwin. 'Why me and not him' he thinks. Meanwhile Baldwin is chuffed that maybe next year he may be a millionaire and that he and his family have escaped from their earlier and simpler life in Queens; Hennessy, on the other hand, misses those happy days. As both family units fall further into disarray, the film ends with one of the main characters slowly bleeding to death. I will not say which one or why, but this ending is as effective as any other at bringing a touch of reality to the sorry procedings.

My only criticism is a lack of historical research in one area. Soldier Culkin is about to be shipped off to the Falkland War -- but not as a gun-waving soldier to the disappointment of his brother, but as a communications technician (like Radar in MASH -- how wimpy). The only trouble is that American forces did not fight in the Falklands, just Britain and Argentina, and no one in this country can discount the possibility that the U.S. might have supported the Argies had they chosen sides (which may be why they didn't). However this is a small niggle about what is in effect a well-cast and well-acted ensemble effort.
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