Now prepared to make its splash on the summer limited release circuit is the third film from Warner Brothers new independent label, We Don’t Live Here Anymore. Earlier this year at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah the new film from budding director John Curran turned some heads as screenwriter Larry Gross took home the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award. The film itself was nominated for the Grand Jury prize a top the festival with fellow summer indies as Garden State and Napoleon Dynamite. With previous films Before Sunset and A Home at the End of the World, it is safe to say Warner Independent Pictures is batting a thousand.
English professor Jack Linden (Mark Ruffalo) is conflicted as to where the future of his marriage lies with wife Terry (Laura Dern). He is fed up with her drinking, her verbal abuse, and especially her lack of attention to overall cleanliness. He finds refuse in Edith (Naomi Watts) and Hank Evans (Peter Krause), a similar couple going through similar problems yet theirs are more sewn underneath rather than as front and center as his and Terry’s. Edith and Jack find solace together and take it upon themselves to vent each of their matrimonial frustrations upon each other through a variety of adulterous conferences. As Terry and Hank seem to slowly catch wise to their significant others’ other doings, they each take their own plan of action that will lead to either reconciliation or the ultimate conclusion of their nuptials.
This film lets Ruffalo shine on the forefront. Throughout this year he’s been very good in supporting roles, We Don’t Live Here Anymore proves he can lead the pack. Dern’s presence and ultimate portrayal of “Terry” easily makes the viewer completely sympathize with Ruffalo’s “Jack”. Terry’s repulsiveness gleams throughout and one can’t blame Jack for hopping in the sack with Edith. Speaking of Edith, Watts does a great job in being who she needs to be; the antithesis of Dern’s “Terry”, other than that there’s not a lot of depth to her. Her relationship to hubby Hank on the surface seems fine, granted there is some unspoken frustration, but it’s rarely touched upon. Krause makes his big screen jump from HBO’s “Six Feet Under” without fail. His character, unlike Watts’, has depth that is explored. Hank is writer with writer’s block. Now as much as that character trait is present in several other films, Krause makes it unique to this particular story. Rather than having misadventures occur that lead to an epiphany, he just sits and stares blankly at his laptop, burns his previous work, and then sits and scribbles on a notepad in pencil. When he’s away from the frustrations of his desk he’s a macho pig revealing his prior affairs to Jack as casually as can be. What really drives the characters though is how well all four work together, hitting all the right highs needed in order for the story to hit home.
This is John Curran’s third turn behind the wheel of a production. As talky and as insipid as the content may be, his handiwork doesn’t let the film drag...for the most part. He does occasionally draw things out, uniquely capturing all the little nuances of majesty in the woods, rural, and suburban areas of his film. Larry Gross, whose previous credits include the Eddie Murphy/Nick Nolte 48 Hours series, uses dialogue uniquely from scene to scene. The arguments that ignite between Jack and Terry are quite real. They are the most realistic couple arguing I’ve seen on screen to date. But, when the arguments turn to lament, the film sort of molds itself into a new wave soap opera.
Nonestly, only people who are likely to truly appreciate this film are married couples. A single guy like myself can appreciate its fervor but might find it difficult to relate. Still, We Don’t Live Here Anymore is a very nice film that will grant some value to a current relationship or in the very least fuel the conjuring of a new one. However, since it is ia limited release, if you want to see it, you’ll have to search it out at a local art-house theatre. With that in mind, you’re better off skipping it and waiting for the DVD. At least then you can curl up on the couch with a loved one and experience it alone... and together.