Lymelife (Screen Media Films, R)

film_lymelife_sm.jpgCan good filmmakers make bad source material worth watching?







It’s always rather confusing when a lot of talent gets behind a bad script. Why did they sign on in the first place? Can good filmmakers make bad source material worth watching? These are the questions raised by the horribly-titled Lymelife; the script, while not outright bad, has been done before, and far less dopily, so why did people like Alec Baldwin, Martin Scorsese (who served as executive producer) and cinematographer Lisa Rinzler get behind it?

Lymelife takes place in the late ’70s, and primarily concerns the Bartlett family: patriarch Mickey (Baldwin), a real estate developer who is getting more of a taste for infidelity in his later years; his wife Brenda (Jill Hennessy), who tries to keep the family together despite her husband’s growing bolder in his not caring; and sons Scott and Jimmy (the always-reliable Culkins, Rory and Kieran), who rebel in the face of their family falling apart. The Bartletts are foiled by their neighbors the Braggs; Charlie (Timothy Hutton) has Lyme disease and can’t find a job, his wife Melissa (Cynthia Nixon) works with Mickey in his office and is his prime source for extramarital hijinks, and daughter Adrianna (Nancy Drew‘s Emma Roberts) joins young Scott for all of the rebelling he can handle. Does this all sound a little like The Ice Storm? Well, that’s because it is like The Ice Storm. But The Ice Storm was infinitely better.

Pretty much everything about Lymelife is done right except for its lame script; most notably, the cast is uniformly excellent, and the film’s scenery is beautifully rendered in Rinzler and Frank Godwin’s wide-angle lens. Rory Culkin unsurprisingly looks like Kieran Culkin seven years ago (around the time Kieran played Igby in Igby Goes Down, another similar but much better film), and Kieran looks surprisingly like Jake Gyllenhaal, all long-faced and scrappy, home for the holidays from the military and looking to stick up for his little brother.

The answer to the question, "Can good filmmakers make bad source material worth watching?" is sometimes, but I’m not sure that Lymelife is one of those times. I don’t exactly regret seeing it, as it is agreeable enough (it’s primarily Scott’s story, and I’m always a sucker for tales of youth rebellion) and mercifully short, but it doesn’t really bring anything to the table of coming-of-age films, or films depicting social decay, or films period, for that matter. | Pete Timmermann

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