The pathologically sprawling, anomie-inducing American suburbs take another drubbing (see also American Beauty and The Ice Storm) in the erratic, overwrought Lymelife. Written and directed by brothers Derick and Steven Martini, the film centers on a coming-of-age story set on Long Island at the end of the 1970s.
Scott (Rory Culkin) is a naively awkward, sexually yearning 15-year-old whose increasingly affluent parents (Alec Baldwin and Jill Hennessy) are fitfully moving toward formal estrangement. This is hardly uncultivated cultural territory and Lymelife revisits it with unrewarding results. “Welcome to our wonderful little family and our wonderful suburban life,” Scott’s disillusioned older bro Jim (Rory’s real-life brother Kieran) tells him after a blowup with their father. Jim has fled their tension-fraught family for army service and Lymelife focuses on Scott’s experiences trying to cope with things on his own.
He’s diverted from his parents’ growing mutual disaffection by his lustful but mostly passive adoration of the girl next door (Emma Roberts), whose mother (Cynthia Nixon) works for his father’s real estate development firm. Her unemployed father (Timothy Hutton) suffers from an attack of Lyme disease, a setup that seems to bear metaphorical earmarks, although just what’s being implied is far from clear.
Calkins is an appealing, sometimes sharply effective performer, but the movie doesn’t give him much more than well-worn pop-cultural commonplaces to work with and there isn’t much of consequence going on around him. Baldwin, who served as a producer—Martin Scorsese was executive producer—shows a nice touch in a couple of scenes, but Lymelife doesn’t let him or the other cast members develop their characters persuasively.
The filmmakers haven’t even managed to pin down the era being portrayed. At one point, there’s a fleeting shot of a television screen showing American hostages taken in Tehran during the Carter administration. In another scene, a character refers to the Falkland Islands war, which started several years later during the Reagan administration.
Lymelife becalms some good actors amid a banal treatment and curious obscurities.
Watch the trailer for Lymelife
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Issue Navigation> Issue Index > v8n19 (Week of Thursday, May 7, 2009) > Film Reviews > Lymelife
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