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Movie Review
We Don't Live Here Anymore


Director: John Curran
Cast: Mark Ruffalo, Naomi Watts, Peter Krause, Laura Dern

eddings and everything they signify -- the ceremony, the celebration, the commitment, the love, and of course, all that cake -- often leave witnesses with a very high opinion of the institution of marriage. And with these past few months being prime time for weddings, summer wind and all, chances are that in most people's minds the idea of marriage is at its most highly regarded this time of year. Take a poll. I'll bet that every year just before the leaves turn, marriage as a concept reaches its pinnacle of popularity.

But alas, old maids, divorce attorneys and cynics of all kind can rest easy. The bitter chill of autumn is just around the corner, and just in case, the movie We Don't Live Here Anymore has arrived in time to remind us that marriage can go wrong. It can be impure, painful, and cruel.

The movie, directed by John Curran and adapted from two stories by Andre Dubus, involves two couples: Jack and Terry (Mark Ruffalo and Laura Dern) and Edith and Hank (Peter Krause and Naomi Watts). Each has kids, and owns homes. The husbands are both English Professors at a small college. They've been married for a while; we can imagine ten years or so. And they are all friends, in the way that married couples seem to be friends: in overlapping matrices, both as four individuals and as two pair.

"My heart WILL go on..."

Now let's insert the drama, by which I mean enough betrayal and adultery to require a Power Point presentation. Jack and Edith are having an affair. But it's not just the sex, which is passionate and takes place in the forest; they truly love each other. Edith doesn't care because her husband Hank has a long history of infidelity. (Though, it should be said he's a pretty good friend, a speedy runner, and a New Yorker-published poet.) Jack, however, does care. Tinges of guilt sometimes make him sad and sometimes make him act horribly mean towards his wife, Terry. Such meanness, in turn, pushes Terry, who really truly does love her husband, to go and have sex with Hank -- not against a tree in the woods but this time in the front seat of Jack's car.

Now, if you're asking yourself why you should care: good question. It is hard to imagine a more plain, middling foursome of middle-aged, middle-class whiners. Some are more likable than others and some are less moral. But throughout their personal sagas, it's hard to find any one thing about them as individuals that is interesting. Where's all the baggage?

"I knew it! Coloring books, every last one of them."

Ultimately, the one thing that drives the action, the fuckeduppedness of these marriages, is also the one thing defines the four as characters. That folding in on a single point presents a twisted, dramatic mobius strip of angst and alienation. But it's also dissatisfying and fails the story as a whole.

To be sure, whether you care or not about the individuals or their plight, it is easy to appreciate the movie's delicate touch and intriguing vision. The movie won't affect your thinking about human nature, as maybe it aspires to do. Nor will it stick with you for days afterward. And yet, the way in which the movie tells their story is interesting, even if the characters themselves are not.

We Don’ Live Here Anymore doesn't overdo it. All four actors are stellar as usual, and they play such nastiness and pain with an unexpected subtlety and quietness. The dialogue rings true and the sets feel lived in. The filmmakers never play the story toward inevitable doom or toy cruelly with viewers' emotions. When Jack tears out Terry's heart, it would have been easy to have him grab at ours, as well. Instead, the empathy we do feel is not sharp and agonizing; it's softer, and somehow more genuine. BR>

By: Rob Lott

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