Monday, September 06, 2004

Movie: We Don’t Live Here Anymore (2004)

It doesn’t sound like the most scintillating story: two couples slowly unravel because of adultery and its attendant petty betrayals. Moving, sure, if it’s done right. But hardly anybody’s definition of a good night out.

Yet this adaptation of two stories by Andre Dubus offers a thrill largely missing from this summer’s blockbusters: the chance to watch professionals at the top of their game. The actors – Mark Ruffalo, Laura Dern, Naomi Watts and Peter Krause – all work in perfect sync. Screenwriter Larry Gross lays out the psychological games subtly, raising issues of money and class. Gross, who wrote 48 HRS., has been trying to get this film made for twenty years. He deservedly won the Waldo Salt award at this year’s Sundance festival.

But it’s Australian director John Curran, making his U.S. debut, who pulls it all together. He demonstrates an astonishing command of his craft, using sound and perfectly-placed edits to deepen the film’s emotions. What could have been a largely internal tale becomes, in his hands, a dynamic and visual one.

I think it was novelist and screenwriter William Goldman who talked about the New Yorker school of fiction. Where every short story seems to end the same way. A marriage on the rocks. A last-ditch trip to Italy to save the relationship. The couple sits at an outdoor café, unable to communicate. An insect lands on the table. Crawls a certain way. The man looks at his wife. The closing line is invariably some variation on this:

“And she understood.”

There’s an aspect of that here. The final images presume more finality than they achieve. But at least they give you something to discuss on the way home.

Miscellaneous: Links

It’s a holiday weekend, but that doesn’t mean bloggers are taking time off. Lee Goldberg offers two excellent articles on FLETCH novelist Gregory McDonald here and here. And Jaime Weinman braves the wrath of a rabid fan base by posting his list of ten reasons why he hates FAMILY GUY.