Directed by Derick Martini. Starring Alec Baldwin, Kieran Culkin, Rory Culkin, Jill Hennessy, Timothy Hutton, Cynthia Nixon, Emma Roberts. (2008, R, 95 min.)
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., May 1, 2009
Lymelife arrives with an impressive pedigree but, unfortunately, little originality. The film, which has played successfully at numerous festivals, features a usually solid cast and Martin Scorsese as an executive producer. First-time director Martini co-wrote the script with his brother Steven, but the story, apart from using Lyme disease as a metaphor for the vague discontent that ails us all (or ailed us, since the film is set in the late Seventies), sheds little new light on our fatuous lives. Lymelife comes across as though someone tossed The Ice Storm, The Deer Hunter, and The Squid and the Whale in a blender and punched puree: The result is more watered-down mash than solid substance. At the heart of the story is 15-year-old Scott (Rory Culkin) who lives on Long Island with his parents, Mickey and Brenda Bartlett (Baldwin and Hennessy), whose marriage is in polite disarray. Scott has pined all his life for Adrianna (Roberts), the girl next door, who has recently started to show some interest in him. Adrianna’s father, Charlie Bragg (Hutton), suffers from the mysterious Lyme disease and daily wanders around the house and grounds with a shotgun. He’s unable to work, so his wife, Melissa (Nixon), takes up the slack, working for real-estate developer Mickey. Sensitive Scott has more in common with his mother, who fears the Lyme-carrying ticks and wants to move back to Queens. Scott’s father and brother, Jimmy (Kieran Culkin), who returns from the military to kick the storyline forward a notch, are more forceful than Scott, a disparity that irks them all. Toss in some adultery, school bullies, and a shotgun that’s guaranteed to go off, and it adds up to just one more dystopian suburban tale. Both Culkins deliver fine performances, as does Roberts, but the adults are all working at something less than their known abilities. The usually terrific Baldwin and Nixon especially disappoint with performances that are overgeneralized and rote. Even if you disagree and find much to like about Lymelife, you’ll still probably find the film’s final scene to be a cop-out. However, it may give new meaning to the term “Martini shot” – filmland slang for the final shot set-up of the day.