We Don’t Live Here Anymore (8/10)

Copyright © 2004 by Tony Medley

Based on two short stories by Andre Dubus, this examines infidelity from male and female points of view. Jack Linden (Mark Ruffalo) and his wife Terry (Laura Dern) are best friends with Hank Evans (Peter Krause) and his wife Edith (Naomi Watts.. If one line can sum up a story, it’s when Edith tells Jack, “Even adultery has a morality to it.”

As the film starts, Jack is involved in a torrid, clandestine affair with Edith. Terry is still hopelessly in love with Jack, but she is apparently a slob. She’s a good mother to their two children, but the house is a mess. Jack is insufferably cruel to Terry. In fact, Jack comes across as one of the more hateful characters in recent movies. He’s cheating on his wife but, when she tells him that Hank made a move on her, he constantly puts her on the defensive, especially when she pleads for his love. Jack’s cruel, hypocritical irrationality towards Terry reminded me of Martha (Elizabeth Taylor) in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf (1966). On the other side, Hank doesn’t seem to mind whatever Edith wants to do sexually.

Terry and Edith are best friends but emotional opposites. While Terry is slovenly when it comes to housekeeping, Edith is perfection. What they have in common is that both seem to be ignored by their husbands, a fact that drives each into the arms of their best friend’s husband.

Hank and Jack are also best friends, both teachers at a small New England college. Hank is a writer suffering from writer’s block. Hank and Edith’s daughter, Sharon (Jennifer Bishop), is an unsmiling delight.

One thing that detracts from the film for me was Naomi Watts’ inability to cry tears. This seems to be epidemic among Hollywood actors, led by Sean Penn, who don’t have this skill. If I’m a director and I want an actor to cry, that’s one of the things I test for. If the actor can’t do it, I either dump the scene or get another actor. Alternatively, there should be some tricks they can use to create tears. If they can make Spiderman fly, why can’t they get Sean Penn and Naomi Watts to cry? It ruins the scene, if not the movie, to see someone moan and wail, as Watts does here, with dry eyes.

Another absurdity of this film, and it is once again the fault of the director (John Curran), occurs whenever Jack and Hank jog, which they do regularly. The only problem is that they aren’t jogging, they’re sprinting. The longest an Olympic class athlete can sprint is the 400-meter race. Even when competing in the 800 meters (a half mile, roughly) the runners pace themselves and only run full out  the last 100-150 meters. But every time we see Hank and Jack “jogging,” they’re running hell-bent for election.

This is not for children as there are some graphic depictions of sex, although no nudity. Regardless, this is a good, tight script (Larry Gross) telling an involving story that’s certainly relevant to our society.

July 24, 2004

The End