Movie Review: Lymelife
By Tom Macy
March 30, 2009
"Welcome to our wonderful little family and our perfect suburban life." Kieran Culkin delivers that line to his younger brother (in film and in life), Rory. They are outside of the local dive bar in their cookie cutter Long Island suburb and Kieran is about to be deployed to the Falkland Islands (FYI it's 1979). At first, the line jumped out at me because it was so painfully on the nose, but upon reconsideration I found delight in its unintentional meta level. Two members of the Culkin family grappling with the banalities of growing up in suburbia? Yeah, right.
Derick Martini's debut feature "Lymelife," which he co-wrote with his brother Steve (guess you really had to know someone to be in on this thing), is a tale of familial dysfunction set in the standard desensitized cine-suburban community, in this case Long Island. The movie centers around the Bartlett family, which has the standard cine-suburban issues. Let's check them off, shall we? You have protagonist Scott (Rory Culkin), an introverted-yet-intuitive 15-year-old who has a crush on Adrianna (Emma Roberts, niece of Julia), the girl next door, who is way too good-looking to be interested in him. His mother (Jill Hennessy), whose best days are behind her, is trapped in a loveless marriage to his ambitious but dillusioned father (Alec Baldwin, unfortunately not playing his character from 30 Rock). Dad is having an affair with the girl next door's mom, (Cynthia Nixon, getting a chance to play a sex object for once) whose husband (Timothy Hutton) is out of work and has Lyme Disease, which has somehow illuminated his mind, making him a basement hermit who occasionally emerges to dole out well-timed wisdom (more on that later).
In his first time directing a feature, Mr. Martini chooses to go the route that many filmmakers have gone by directing something personal. The problem is, apparently everyone (or at least every filmmaker) has the same personal issues, resulting in bunch of personal movies that feel very, very similar.
With a plucky mandolin theme and cheerfully crisp photography, the likes of quirky indie comedies Juno and Little Miss Sunshine spring to mind (how much do you want to bet the poster will be hand drawn?). The story itself, including major plot points, very closely resembles the more dramatic The Ice Storm. Now, if you told me I was going to see The Ice Storm meets Little Miss Sunshine I'd be stoked, but The Martini brothers seem to be awkwardly caught between the two. Instead of a seamless blending of comedy and drama, we're given jarring tonal shifts between scenes and sometimes even between lines. For example, in the obligatory air-clearing screaming match between the Scott parents, Baldwin appears to be hinting at comedy while Henessey is giving her stone cold Lady M. It's almost as if Martini had two versions of the scene and just mashed them together hoping it would work.