We Don’t Live Here Anymore – a powerful downer

Director John Curran’s We Don’t Live Here Anymore is a hard-hitting, raw, Wages-of-Sin tale, powerfully acted by a first-rate cast, featuring Mark Ruffalo (Collateral), Laura Dern (Jurassic Park), Naomi Watts (Mulholland Drive), and Peter Krause (TV’s Six Feet Under). The story, which formed through the union of two short stories by Andre Dubus, shows us in gory detail a very simple lesson: If you’re married and have kids, it’s a really bad idea to sleep with your best friend’s spouse.For some viewers, the angst, ugly behavior, deceit, foul language, and explicit sexuality will be too caustic, offensive, and unpleasant.

But it is important to note that, while movies often glorify adultery and sexual misbehavior in the name of a “seize-the-day” morality, here is one of those rare “adultery films,” like The Ice Storm and Lantana, that tells it like it is. Like a doctor cutting into a body to expose the revolting truth of a tumor, Curran’s film shows us the stomach-turning truth about infidelity and what it does to marriages and families. The performances suggest that the actors really know the territory (although we certainly hope, for their sake, that they don’t). For their achievement, the filmmakers, the storyteller, and the cast—especially Ruffalo—deserve praise.

There are a few intriguing metaphors glimmering here and there, like the dialogue between two of the children about how some people believe we came from apes and others believe we came from Adam and Eve. Sure enough, the adults are struggling to decide whether to behave like animals or like the sons and daughters of God. But, unfortunately, while the film is both true in its storytelling and excellent in its craftsmanship, it’s just not terribly interesting. The Ice Storm managed to be dramatic, funny, unpredictable, and full of insightful cultural commentary. Lantana was a compelling drama, a complex psychological examination of good and bad marriages, and an intriguing murder mystery as well. We Don’t Live Here Anymore doesn’t amount to much more than a series of violent, snarling arguments and furrowed-brow anxiety. It’s too bad.

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About Jeffrey Overstreet

Jeffrey Overstreet is the author of a “memoir of dangerous moviegoing” called Through a Screen Darkly, and a four-volume series of fantasy novels called The Auralia Thread, which includes Auralia’s Colors, Cyndere’s Midnight, Raven’s Ladder, and The Ale Boy’s Feast. Jeffrey is a contributing editor for Seattle Pacific University’s Response magazine, and he writes about art, faith, and culture for Image, Filmwell, and his own website, LookingCloser.org. His work has also appeared in Paste, Relevant, Books and Culture, and Christianity Today (where he was a film columnist and critic for almost a decade). He lives in Shoreline, Washington. Visit him on Facebook at facebook.com/jeffreyoverstreethq.

  • amcorrea

    I ranted about a different angle of this here:

    http://outofthewoodsnow.blogspot.com/2005/02/favorite-rant.html

  • Anonymous

    Hmm, I dunno, aside from the comments by the Berkeley prof, this article seemed to make sense, from a marketing standpoint. I’m sure the marketers are considering how ‘DaVinci’ and Pullman’s books will be gauged by the evangelical public (which seems the more accurate parallel to the situation described in the NY Times article) — whether they would view the evangelical outcry as free publicity or lost revenue, I couldn’t say, however.

    My greater concern, however, is how certain segments of the American Christian population (or some of its leaders, anyway) are allowing themselves to be used as a marketing tool for films like this, ‘The Polar Express,’ and Mel’s ‘Passion.’

    Another concern is the prospect of sweatshop-made stuffed Aslans showing up in Disney shops later this year. No doubt, this would make Clive Staples turn in his grave, for a couple of reasons.

    - Andrew

  • Reuben

    All I have to say is that this is one of the most ludicrous articles I have read in a long time. I wonder is Dave going to talk about how the “anti-religion” of Pullmans work or The Davinci Code will be too much for the general moviegoing public? I think not. Thanks for the link Jeffery.

  • Connectage

    am amazed at how blogspot can connect folks by interests – have u read On the Road – or listened to Astral Weeks?


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