Pub date April 21, 2009
SectionFilm FeaturesSectionFilm Review

REVIEW It’s 1979, and disco isn’t the only thing that sucks for Long Island teen Scott (Rory Culkin). Bullies at school beat up his skinny 15-year-old ass; girl next door Adrianna (Emma Roberts) likes him, but "like a brother." Housewife mom Brenda (Jill Hennessy), neglected by real estate magnate spouse Mickey (Alec Baldwin), has gone kinda crazy. Buying into the paranoia around deer-tick-carried Lyme disease, she won’t let Scott go outside without duct-taping shut all worrisome gaps in his clothing. It’s pretty clear to everyone (particularly older son Jim, played by Kieran Culkin — who here seems a rare live wire in the usually underwhelming Culkin acting dynasty) but her that dad is cheating, though for a while no one guesses it’s with Adrianna’s bitchy mum Melissa (Cynthia Nixon). Melissa has her own problems at home, given that husband Charlie (a strikingly tragicomic Timothy Hutton) really does have Lyme disease, which has turned him from a dynamo into an exhausted, pitiful shell of a man. Yeah, you’re thinking, do we really need another dysfunctional-family flashback with the requisite retro pop hits, pot smoking (back when it came dirt cheap), awkward virginity loss, and nostalgically horrible decor? Sure, why not. Lymelife treads no original territory, but its setting and characters are granted more than skin-deep authenticity, and the tangled conflicts in director Derick Martini and cowriting brother Steven Martini’s screenplay really do lead somewhere interesting, even important. There are some annoying quirks, but the overall the Martinis nail a savvy balance of comedy and drama. Plus, amid numerous good performances, there’s Baldwin giving a smug, surly yet sympathetic one that should be a shoo-in for award consideration if anyone still remembers little Lymelife at year’s end.

LYMELIFE opens Fri/24 in Bay Area theaters.