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"We Don't Live Here Anymore"

Directed by John Curran.
Written by Larry Gross ("48 HRS.").  Based on short stories by Andre Dubus.
Starring Mark Ruffalo, Naomi Watts, Peter Curran and Laura Dern.
Release Year:  2004
Review Date:  8/29/04


My buddy Yac and I went over to the indie house downtown to catch the new adultery film "We Don't Live Here Anymore", and one thing Yac and I absolutely agreed on when all was said and done:

Laura Dern looks like hellllllll in this movie.

Mark Ruffalo stars as Jack, a professor at the local community college in Somewhere, Washington that is unhappily married to Terry (Dern), has two kids that he seems only partially willing to put up with and...he's cheating on Terry with his best friend's wife Edith (Naomi Watts).  Jack's friend, Hank (Peter Krause), seems to love his wife, but through philosophies that make sense mostly to himself, Hank likes to, ahem, "sample the goods" outside of his marriage as well.  He has a daughter that he seems to love to death...almost as much as he loves the company of Terry.

So, it's an "everybody sleeps with everybody" movie, and director John Curran is effective in creating a fairly depressing atmosphere for anyone who has ever worried that their partner might really be cheating on them.  It's sad watching Jack and Terry give a half-assed attempt to working on their marital problems; it's sad watching their two kids trying to cope with something they don't really understand.  The characters--Ruffalo's Jack in particular--are just bastards save for Terry, and their bastardness wears on you as the film rolls along.  Personally, I wondered how many of my friends' relationships had shades of what these characters were going through, or how many of the people I know regularly cheat on their partners...the home life in situations like these are profiled well in "We Don't Live Here Anymore", at least as well as I can imagine, since I have never been through something like it myself.

The flip side of this, as a movie anyway, is that the originality here is pretty much at zero.  The performances are okay; I had higher expectations for Watts, who seems to really be "acting" at times, as opposed to playing a living, breathing personality; her line readings in a couple of scenes just seemed blank, given the situation she was playing out.  Krause, too, seems very, very average given how much I had heard about his television work...some of that is his character's matter-of-fact delivery, which I guess isn't really his fault.  Ruffalo's character is the worst of the lot, here, in terms of evil, and his performance is fairly similar to his mind-games-driven character in "In the Cut", but his hypocritical nature in this film didn't make much sense to me and provided a couple of what-I-would-imagine-are unintentional laughs at key moments in the film.  The best thing about "We Don't Live Here Anymore" is Laura Dern, in part because her performance is so strong but in part because she looks so damned awful.

I was telling Yac this after the flick, but Dern looks so awful that it almost makes sense that Jack would cheat on his wife of however many years because of how great she must have looked ten years ago and how bad she looks now.  Seriously, in a scene where Jack is talking to himself about how he should at least consider making love to his wife to keep up the facade of a happy marriage, you can see where he would decide against it when he sees Terry coming on to him and she just looks nasty!  For me, having been a fan of Dern from her hotter days in "Wild at Heart" (the David Lynch flick with Nic Cage) and "Rambling Rose", time has not been kind to Dern but I have generally still thought of her as attractive...not in this flick!  The weird thing is that I don't think the makeup department did anything to Dern ala Charlize Theron in "Monster"; I think that Curran just decided that to be effective, Dern had to look more normal, so maybe a lack of makeup and a generally unkempt hairstyle made her look more down-to-earth and very much the inferior to Watts' Edith.  Whatever, it works, and I think it also makes you feel even worse for what is happening to Dern's character as you sympathize with not only her unhappy situation but the fact that the ego bruise for a cheated-on spouse must be huge.

In the end, "We Don't Live Here Any More" was effective but as I write this review two days after seeing the film, it doesn't create the kind of lasting effect that better adulterously-plotted films leave on the heart and soul.  Still, the questions films like this raise are always entertaining to watch played out, even for something this depressing.

Rating:  Matinee


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09