Film — We Don’t Live Here Anymore (R)

We Don’t Live Here Anymore (R)

by Amy Diaz

Nothing says rousing fun like the tale of two couples and their assorted infidelities in the adultery drama We Don’t Live Here Anymore.

If you ever saw that episode of South Park were the Sundance Film Festival came to town, you’ll know what I mean when I say that this movie is very much gay-cowboys-eating-pudding. The four main characters slink around their lives wallowing in their assorted miseries, creating more miseries for themselves and then wallowing in those. In a way, We Don’t Live Here Anymore is a terrific pick-me-up. I went to the movie feeling a little blue about my own assorted problems and left rather sheepishly happy. There’s something about seeing other people’s misery writ large that makes you feel a little foolish about dwelling too much on your own problems.

Jack Linden (Mark Ruffalo) is a professor at a New Englandy looking college. He seems both relatively happy with and sort of bored by his home life—he and his wife Terry (Laura Dern) live in an old, crumbling, poorly kept house with their two kids. To kill some time, Jack starts an affair with the even more bored, far less contented Edith (Naomi Watts), the wife of Jack’s best friend Hank (Peter Krause). Edith, who lives in a far nicer, cleaner house with Hank, has a repressed cold relationship with her husband that is as quiet as Jack and Terry’s is violent and overheated. Edith takes to Jack primarily, it seems, in hopes of getting her husband’s attention and because, at least while they’re having sex, Edith is assured to have Jack’s undivided attention.

Of course, the other two people in this ménage a quatre seem to realize what’s going on. Hank, who has himself had other girlfriends, doesn’t particularly care. Her romantic fulfillment with Jack keeps Edith happy without Hank having to put out any effort.

Terry on the other hand is nearly insane with jealousy and hurt over the affair that she knows is going on. She even clumsily starts her own affair with Hank, about which she relates every moment to Jack in desperate hopes of getting him angry, getting him to care.

Of course, caring and attention seem to be the driving need of all of these characters. Each is a rather selfish ball of need that can’t possibly give anyone else the attention they require. In one of his intermittent voice-overs, Jack even admits to a certain level of childishness and petulance. When, at the end of the movie, one of the characters finally decides to leave it seems like the only honest, sensible move that anyone of them has made throughout the entire film.

For all its unrelenting woe-is-us-ness, We Don’t Live Here Anymore does has bright spots. Ruffalo has made a career of playing these conflicted characters who are in a constant struggle between what they know is right and their id-like desires to satisfy immediate impulses, regardless of the consequences. There’s a reason he gets pegged in this role so frequently—he does it well. Nobody particularly wants to put Whiney Man-boy on their resume but Ruffalo gives the characters more depth, more humanity than they might normally have.

Ruffalo’s talent even extends to those moments when he seems to be smirking at the movie itself. In several scenes where a shrill Laura Dern throws off screeches of anger and patheticness, Ruffalo answers back with a whateverish smile—one that speaks to both his character’s non-committal façade and, perhaps, his own skepticism that a scene is working.

Which brings us back to the other bright spot of this movie, its Prozac effect on the viewer. After all, when other people react this goofily to their problems how can you help but feel better about your own?

- Amy Diaz 

 
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