WE DON'T LIVE HERE ANYMORE
Jack Linden (Mark Ruffalo) and his wife Terry (Laura Dern) are best of friends with Hank Evans (Peter Krause) and his wife Edie (Naomi Watts). But neither marriage is going smoothly, and when Jack and Edie start an affair, it sets off a series of confrontations, and may have been responsible for Hank and Terry's fling. The families, both with small children, battle their insecurities, consciences, conflicts and sexual needs in a seemingly hopeless search for resolutions.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
This film, based on two short stories by the talented Andre Dubus (think of his riveting work in House of Sand and Fog), is a study of two marriages in turmoil, using the four way relationships to explore various takes on love, intimacy and betrayal. With its earnest, steady beat and its dark hues, the film is speaking stylistically, inviting our close attention to the details of these emotional connections. It sounds compelling, but the film plays rather flat.
It's a work of literature that has resisted adaptation, because in the written word, the reader is given free reign to imagine the big picture, fill in the details and concentrate on the images formed by the words on the page. As Anthony Minghella succinctly points out, the prose sentence is very different from the movie sentence. The movie sentence demands the creation of the entire world spoken of.
I suggest We Don't Live Here Anymore doesn't work as a film, even though it works as literature. The focus on the four characters leaves out much of the context of their lives, and the cross marital affairs are analysed by the characters to the point of being infuriatingly irrelevant. We don't understand enough about these people to care about the infidelities as such, but what we see of their emotional problems is insufficient to draw up a profile of them as complete human beings.
The Jack/Terry marriage is in crisis and we see only the result; the Hank/Edie marriage is also in turmoil, but we don't get to really understand Edie's motivation for her affair. Mark Ruffalo's Jack is emotionally confused and he shows it; his moral betrayal is matched by Edie, but there is a slightly stale air about the nature of these relationships. Perhaps that's to be found in the culturally specific nature of Dubus' work. This is unintentionally highlighted in a brief exchange between Jack and Hank.
Jack: So why don't you leave her?
Hank: Why would I do that?
Jack: Cause you're in love with another woman.
Hank: Jesus, Jack, this isn't the middle ages.
No, it's the early years of the new millennium, not the 70s, when that was written. (It's also one of those manufactured exchanges I dislike; Jack's question can only mean Hank's wife Edith. Why would he ask 'Who?')
The oddest thing is that the performances are all sensational - down to the little children; it's the screenplay and the direction that that come up short, but that's not to say it's a bad film. It's just that I don't respond to it, even though I appreciate it's a powerful dissection of marriage, with some brutal scenes that ring true. There is no humour, and there is no light - and I accept that. It's like a masterclass in married misery.
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WE DON'T LIVE HERE ANYMORE (M)
CAST: Mark Ruffalo, Laura Dern, Peter Krause, Naomi Watts, Sam Charles, Haili Page, Jennifer Bishop
PRODUCER: Jona Goodman, Harvey Kahn, Naomi Watts
DIRECTOR: John Curran
SCRIPT: Larry Gross (Andre Dubus short stories)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Maryse Alberti
EDITOR: Alexander de Franceschi
MUSIC: Michael Convertino
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Tony Devenyi
RUNNING TIME: 101 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Dendy
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: May 26, 2005
VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Magna Pacific
VIDEO RELEASE: November 9, 2005