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STUDIO: Screen Media Films
RUNNING TIME: 93 minutes
• Deleted Scenes
• Alternate Ending
• Commentary with director Derick Martini and actor Rory Culkin
A coming-of-age tale in the style and manner of Noah Baumbach, minus the fussy intellectualism.
Alec Baldwin, Kieran Culkin, Rory Culkin, Jill Hennessy, Timothy Hutton, Cynthia Nixon and Emma Roberts
“Not such an ordinary fucking person now, am I?”
An obviously personal story from newcomer Derick Martini, Lymelife tells the story of two families beginning to unravel in early ’80s Long Island. Scott Bartlett (Rory Culkin) is our primary protagonist, a quiet preteen who spends a lot of time playing with Star Wars action figures and pining for a neighbor named Adrianna, who sadly now has an interest in older, car-driving boys. Scott’s brother Jimmy (Kieran Culkin – unsurprisingly) is on leave from the Army, and immediately starts conflict between his mother (Jill Hennessy) and his philandering father (Alec Baldwin, unrestrained). Little do both the boys know that their father is actually dating – drumroll – Adrianna’s mother (Cynthia Nixon), while her husband (Timothy Hutton) seethes in their basement, unable to work due to an infection of Lyme disease that seems to be driving him slowly mad. Lyme disease… an insidious infection from within… wait a minute… that sounds suspiciously like the film’s depiction of suburbia! Wonder if anybody has ever picked up on that.
You’d be forgiven at this point for picking up on shades of all Lymelife‘s filmic antecedents here.
“Target shooting, eh? Doesn’t frighten me. I’ve been shot at. How else do you separate
the stronger Culkins from the weaker Culkins? Yeah… I’ve seen some shit.”
Frankly, calling Lymelife a “coming-of-age tale,” given all the stigmas and cliches generally associated with the worst of the genre, is apt. Lymelife is well-shot but generally uncaptivating and unremarkable, cribbing generously from the its predecessors (The Ice Storm, The Squid and the Whale, etc.). It’s seldom any more interesting than a “greatest hits,” so to speak, of similar films, and Martini’s obvious eye for detail and affection (or at least close personal ties) to the milieu don’t redeem this basic lack of a compelling story.
Too many debut filmmakers make the mistake of believing a large ensemble cast gives them an excuse to turn out a film lacking narrative focus. Lymelife is no exception, as the film amiably meanders along and characters kind of bicker and disappear for a while, leading to an ending that would will frustrate viewers who dislike ambiguous endings but would be dramatically unsatisfying either way.
“They don’t serve Donaghy Estates here, either! … Yeah, I know it’s fictional,
but aren’t you impressed I’m on that show? It’s a good show.”
To his credit Martini has assembled a hell of a cast. Hutton finds a precarious balance in his character between being completely pathetic and kind of creepy, but the character works thanks to his dead-eyed performance – and he’s really the film’s MVP. Coming in a surprising second: Emma Roberts, whose performance attempts to tie into the Kat Dennings/Emma Stone school of badass, sassy teenagers and finds a surprising sweetness underneath. The Culkins are old pros at this by now, so they’re doing their Culkin thing. I’m not a Baldwin fan here. I wish I could say otherwise, but Baldwin plays the patriarch big, charmless and broad with a garish accent.
What a perfect moment. If there was some non-diegetic Nick Drake song
playing right now, it’d be like all those poems I wrote in high school.
Lymelife is most remarkable for its visual flair; Martini combines the wide-angle, precise compositions of Wes Anderson with the chaotic and lived-in aesthetic of Noah Baumbach’s stuff (though, if the trailer for Baumbach’s Greenberg is to be believed, he’ll be working in widescreen soon too). Obviously with this sort of movie, Anderson is the elephant in the room, but it’s relieving that Martini is interested in trying out his own thing – and now that the personal screenplay is out of him, there’s enough spark in the writing and direction of Lymelife to suggest that Martini, should he ever be able to get funding for a movie again, has potential to turn out something interesting.
Honestly, I don’t hate Lymelife. It’s enjoyable to watch. While I’ve given it a lot of shit here, it was made with a great deal of earnestness and talent, and 9 times out of 10 I can forgive a film like that more easily.
“So like, he jumps on the dragon and shit… and then he flies the big bastard
back to the other blue cat people. And then they all hold hands and chant around a tree.
I don’t really know what happened, but that shit looked FANTASTIC in 3D.”
An alternate ending (which appears to be the entire final reel of the movie, with the only change, as far as I could tell, coming right before the credits) spells out exactly what happened before the film cuts to black. As I said before, it’s still dramatically unsatisfying to me — unlike something like The Ice Storm, which builds and builds to the tragedy at its climax, the incident at the end of Lymelife just kind of happens, and at least when kept ambiguous I can imagine a more fitting conclusion.
The disc also has a commentary track from Martini and Rory Culkin and eight deleted scenes. The alternate ending and deleted scenes also come with commentary. Lymelife is a stacked release, as these things go, so if it inspires more passion in you than it did me, you have access to all manners of insight into the filmmaking.
An OCD nitpick: I kind of wanted to punch this DVD in the face for having trailers after you hit the “play movie” selection on the DVD menu. Dick move, Screen Media Films.
5.8 out of 10