"We Donít Live Here Anymore," taken from a thirty year-old script is directed by John Curran with a screenplay by Larry Gross and based on two short stories by the late Andre Dubus. Itís about two couples who are friends and who all betray each other with their affairs. The film is a slice of life during a real rough patch in these couplesí lives with all the attendant ugly issues: spouses as enemies, dishonesty among friends, putting up fronts for children - as if they donít innately know there is something bad going on.
Jack and Terry Linden (Mark Ruffalo and Laura Dern) are friends with Hank and Edith Evans (Peter Krause and Naomi Watts). The husbands teach at the same community college, workout and socialize together; the women are close friends, and they all get together as couple friends for dinner parties. Jack and Edith are having a torrid affair. Hank comes on to Terry all the time, saying that he doesnít love his wife. Finally she gives in. But even though they all treat each other so badly, they are somehow portrayed as good parents.
The film is depressing with little to lift it and give it the texture and relief that would make it compelling. The only character, besides the cute children, that you can really care about is Laura Dernís character, Terry. Hank and Edith are both so cynical and dishonest that it's hard to care about them. Mark Ruffaloís character has some of the nuances that make him real and engaging, like when he has pangs of guilt and vomits while running with Hank because he flashes on the last time he and Hankís wife had sex together.
Laura Dernís character Terry is authentic and interesting; her anger and depression is expressed by her forgetfulness and poor housekeeping. When Jack complains about the state of the house, she has some killer lines about him not loving her for herself but for what she does.
The photography is expressive and evocative. Ruffalo, Watts and Dern give stellar performances. Laura Dern seemed to become Terry Linden; the best scenes are the interactions between Terry and Jack. You can feel Terry's frustration when she asks Jack questions and he lies defensively and then puts blame back on her.
The most amazing part of this film is the dialogue. Screenwriter Larry Gross captures the way couples talk to each other perfectly. Line flows organically from one to the next and he captures how conflicts escalate and how people hurt each other.
The dialogue in "We Donít Live Here Anymore" is so authentic it could have been taken from couplesí family counseling tapes during a crisis; it is so painfully stark and real. Most American movie-goers will probably not opt to endure watching these couples go through this nightmare. But perhaps this film should be required watching for psychotherapy students.
In San Francisco this is Joan Widdifield for Movie Magazine International
© 2004 - Joan K. Widdifield, Psy.D - Air Date: 8/04
We Don't Live Here Anymore
U.S.A. - 2004