' ' Cinema Romantico: Lymelife

Wednesday, May 06, 2009


Derrick Martini's "Lymelife" is a noble attempt at a coming-of-age film. As we know, there have been many, many coming-of-age films but I don't subscribe to the Overdone Genre Theory. If a film's good, it's good, irregardless of the material. "Lymelife" is noble because in the face of the usual suspects like virginity and bullies it does seem to desire getting across a real, moving story. It just doesn't entirely succeed.

The title of the film is taken from Charlie (Timothy Hutton), who has been infected with lyme disease, which has become rampant in the Long Island neighborhood where the film is set, and he spends most of his days sitting in front of a blank television, wilting away. But Charlie is not the film's focal point. That would be his next door neighbor, Scott Bartlett (Rory Culkin), a typical teen who is in danger of wilting away. He pines for Charlie's daughter Adrianna (Emma Roberts), who is friends with Scott but prefers "older guys". Scott's parents meanwhile are in a marriage that itself seems to be wilting away. His father Mickey (Alec Baldwin) is more concerned with his land developments and new house he plans to his build that his wife (Jill Hennesey) does not particularly want since she really doesn't want to be in Long Island at all and longs for the days when the family lived in Queens. Now couple that with the fact Mickey is having an affair with Charlie's wife (Cynthia Nixon) who conveniently happens to be Mickey's secretary. Maybe Scott will succeed in getting out of Long Island like his older brother Jimmy (Rory Culkin's real life brother Kieran), who has joined the army. Or maybe he'll too end up with lyme disease, a fate which his mother vigilantly does everything to ensure he avoids.

Thankfully the film does not over-emphasize the time period and passes on most of the stupid sort of humor involved in most movies of this ilk. It yearns to be an honest account of growing up with undertones of humor rather than vice versa. The relationship between Scott's parents feels spot on. She knows he cheats and he seems to know that she knows and yet they stay together. For the "good" of the kids? Probably, but then the film doesn't explicitly say so. There is a nice moment when they whisper an argument, thinking Scott is out of earshot, but, of course, he is not. His friendship with Adrianna is handled well, too. I especially liked when he told a lie in regards to he and Adrianna, partly because I felt that is something he would have done and partly because her reaction to the events seemed believable.

Charlie, on the other hand, is obviously critical but is too much of a symbol rather than a living, breathing character. The film pretty much plops him on the couch and then gives him a monologue here or there to hammer home the points of the movie. Not to disparage Hutton's performance. I've always liked him as an actor but he seems to wind up in a lot of movies that fall by the wayside. (Next year will be the 30th Anniversary of his Oscar win for "Ordinary People" which is kinda hard to believe.)

Most of all it comes down to the end. I just didn't like it. It left a terribly sour taste in my mouth. Too arty, too show-offy, too lion-or-the-tiger-y. For a movie that so often tries to get across real emotions such fancy pants filmmaking seemed unecessary. Perhaps next time out the Brothers Martini (Derrick and his sibling Steven wrote the script) will stick it to the good stuff.

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