Monday, May 19, 2014

Film review: "You Can Count on Me" (2000) with spoilers

I can't believe this film received so many good reviews.  Yes, the actors (Mark Ruffalo, Laura Linney, Matthew  Broderick, and Rory Culkin) are all easy on the eyes and do a good job of delivering the lines in the script and looking their parts.  The problem, IMO, is the awful script.  This review contains spoilers, so stop reading now unless you are willing to have parts of the plot revealed.

We've all been exposed to enough extreme pessisism of the "life's a bitch and then you die" variety without needing to see yet another film promulgating this view.  The film begins with a car wreck, is pervaded by grief surrounding these deaths that people never get over even many years later, and we are supposed to feel sorry for all these characters who smoke cigarettes, smoke pot, drink when stressed, lie to practically everyone, choose dreadful partners, and have sex wrecklessly.  Maybe people in their late teens or early twenties are this heedless, but these characters are now thirty-ish and are attempting to act as parents, god help the children in their midst.  Movies this pessimistic need to carry a warning label, such as "WARNING: Total Downer", just as any film in which a major character dies of cancer should have to carry a cancer warning.

I wanted to like the Larry Linney and Mark Ruffalo sister-and-brother duo, but their actions were too utterly stupid, self-defeating, destructive and idiotic to keep them sympathetic.  The Laura Linney "single mom" character lies to her boyfriend (who wants to marry her), carries residual anger at him because he didn't ask her to marry him a year ago, sleeps with her obnoxious boss who has a pregnant wife at home, and kicks her indigent brother out of the house for telling her son the truth about his deadbeat father.  Sorry, cannot like anything about this character.  And the brother is just as bad; he gets a woman pregnant while having zero income and has to borrow money from his sister to help the woman get an abortion, showing little remorse.

The brother's lack of remorse about the abortion nullifies the validity of the film's most powerful scene, when the brother brings his sister's son to meet his natural father, resulting in the natural father's utter rejection of the son and a fist-fight with the brother.  The brother's outrage over the father being a child- abandoning jerk is hypocritical, given that the brother walks away from his pregnant girlfriend with scarcely a glance back.

But then, lying hypocrits and eternal grief is what this film seems to be about.  I can't give it nearly as much praise as others, nor can I recommend it despite its charmingly cute cast.  Little needs to be said about the Matthew Broderick character (the mother's boss at the bank where she works, who cheats on his pregnant wife by screwing his female employee).  Just another lying bastard, like everyone else in this sad and hopeless filmscape.

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