Published May 07, 2009Playing as kind of a lowbrow The Ice Storm, with far less subtext, passive-aggressive behaviour and directorial panache, Lymelife is the kind of seriocomic familial dysfunction movie that people either love or hate. It's one of those "actors" movies where everyone has baggage and knows a little something that the audience won't be privy to until an opportune climax.
Unfortunately, many of the characters are not particularly intelligent, which leads to the simultaneously amusing and frustrating blurting out of absolutely every secret and hidden thought. Had more effort been placed in showing, rather than stating, the overlying emotional dynamics this above-average indie could have gone from merely good to great.
Set in Middle America in the late '70s, Lymelife follows Scott (Rory Culkin), an awkward teenager with a desperate crush on the worldlier girl-next-door, Adrianna (Emma Roberts). Meanwhile, Scott's father Mickey (Alec Baldwin) spends a great deal of his extracurricular time fornicating with Adrianna's mother, Melissa (Cynthia Nixon), much to the disdain of his wife Brenda (Jill Hennessy) and Melissa's Lyme disease-ridden husband Charlie (Timothy Hutton). The return of Scott's older brother, Jimmy (Kieran Culkin), sets into motion the unveiling of many family secrets.
There is much discomfort to be had while watching this film, as Scott practices speeches and pick-up lines in front of the mirror while occasionally fondling himself, while Julia Roberts's niece flashes cleavage, uses a great deal of profanity, smokes a joint like a pro and implies something sexual about a jelly doughnut. In fact, the film seems to take a certain degree of pleasure in shocking the audience with its frank and uncompromising vision of these characters.
The real surprise of the movie is Jill Hennessy, who plays a woman relatively content in her unhappy marriage, until it becomes common knowledge that her husband is diddling the skank next door. Much is required of her character, given that she needs to both outwardly portray the desire for knowledge while burying her head in the sand. She does this with a self-deprecating complexity that most actresses would have avoided for vanity reasons. (Vagrant)