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Zettel Film Reviews » We Don’t Live Here Any More – time filler in the waiting room of old age

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We Don’t Live Here Any More – time filler in the waiting room of old age

C'mon Hank, pecker up - that's the problem

"C'mon Jack, pecker up." "That's the problem."

We Don’t Live Here Any More – John Curran

Critical reaction to this bemuses me. Time Out calls it strong stuff and one of the more mature American movies of recent years. Others have agreed, as it won awards in 2004. For me it is a miscast, emotionally illiterate, poorly written, nicely filmed, well edited, downer of a movie with an excellent score. I don’t know the two Andre Dubus stories on which it is based, but he wrote the source material for the excellent In The Bedroom (Todd Field – 2001). That movie genuinely explored a difficult grown-up theme, so I must assume the superficial view of people and relationships on show here is down to screenwriter Larry Goss and director Curran.

Serious themes are mentioned in this movie but not explored: largely because characters are shown but not written. And miscast. The two women look as if they might be interesting but as written – aren’t. The men are shown as if they are interesting but as written – never could be. Neither relationship or marriage is remotely believable and there is zero chemistry on screen between the players. So the movie goes the only route left: sex and over-acting. Which is probably where it was conceived in the first place.

I would be interested to know what women think of the movie. To me it seems to reflect a totally Hollywood male perspective with all the emotional depth that implies. These are adolescent male characters given a grown up, married setting to flounder about in. Both Jack and Hank, without a trace of irony, are drawn as men who have settled respectively for passive resignation and cynical egoism just because life hasn’t given them what they want. There is absolutely nothing celebratory of life or love in the sex in this movie: it is just an engaging time-filler in the waiting room of a disillusioned old age.

Laura Dern who deserves better material, almost persuades us that Terry is an interesting character visiting from a movie worth watching. Naomi Watts is wasted as Edith (Edith?) who is simply intellectually and emotionally vapid. Edith’s whole purpose in life is to be disappointed in the outcome of her love for waste-of-space Hank. And of course expressing this in the only way known to Hollywood male: carnivorous (Goss’s word not mine) screwing of a friend’s husband to add a bit of spice to an empty life. Sort of a Hankless task. Or a hanker after a ……* Perrleeaaase Time Out – ‘strong’, ‘mature’? – give me a break.

I won’t drag this out. Suffice to say that Hank, the archetypal Hollywood writer, is hitting on every bit of gullible student ‘pussy’ (Goss again) he can find while gestating the great American comic. Mark Ruffalo, again without irony, is supposed to be a teacher of English. This is sketched in for us in the best unintentionally funny scene in the movie where, clad in obligatory sports jacket and horn-rimmed specs, to which he does not appear to have been introduced, a few asinine remarks about Tolstoy are supposed to signal that Jack has depth. Doh.

The children are Hollywood cutesie dreadful. Family life culled from a car advert. And one does not have to be a prude to wonder at the probity of giving at least a couple of sexually explicit lines to a real 7/8 year-old actress. Naturally the women protest their lot. Gotta hit the women’s market guys. And man (sic), what a protest: a whinging tirade against housework and baby-minding which is, of course, really a displaced complaint about bad sex. You can always tell when the writer’s been in therapy.

These are women with no thoughts, ideas, convictions, beliefs, aspirations, character of their own except as defined by their enjoyment of sex and their failure to make their men ‘happy’. I’m just a guy with my own cherished set of insecurities, but this crap makes me angry. This sure ain’t me fellas. Women are people, with good and bad qualities, just like us: that’s what’s supposed to be the attraction.

(July 2005)

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