Disarray And Disenchantment, Amid The Deer Ticks

Jill Hennessy, Rory Culkin i

Amid a Lyme disease outbreak, Scott's mother (Jill Hennessy) worries about his safety — even on the front porch. Screen Media Films hide caption

itoggle caption Screen Media Films
Jill Hennessy, Rory Culkin

Amid a Lyme disease outbreak, Scott's mother (Jill Hennessy) worries about his safety — even on the front porch.

Screen Media Films

Lymelife

  • Director: Derick Martini
  • Genre: Family comedy-drama
  • Running time: 94 minutes

Rated R: profanity, sexual situations, fist fights, gun threats

Rory Culkin, Alec Baldwin, Jill Hennessy i

Scott's developer father (Alec Baldwin) shows his dubious family a dream house. Screen Media Films hide caption

itoggle caption Screen Media Films
Rory Culkin, Alec Baldwin, Jill Hennessy

Scott's developer father (Alec Baldwin) shows his dubious family a dream house.

Screen Media Films

Midway though Lymelife, an unhappily drunk suburban mom drops the family's Monopoly set, and little green plastic houses scatter.

And because the movie has already offered vignettes of tract homes, not to mention close-ups of miniature abodes in a real estate office, there's just one conclusion to be drawn: Cookie-cutter houses are the problem.

Longtime couples drifting apart? Sexual awakening a drag? Teenagers growing to hate their parents? Blame it on the mini-mansions.

Director Derick Martini does present some other suburban afflictions, notably the one mentioned in the film's title: Lyme disease threatens late-'70s Long Island, where Brenda (Jill Hennessy) tapes shut the cuffs of 15-year-old son Scott (Rory Culkin), and where their neighbor Charlie (Timothy Hutton) suffers long-term consequences after a tick bite.

Charlie is also enduring unemployment and depression, and perhaps hallucinations. (Is he the only one who sees that ominous deer prowling the neighborhood, possibly carrying Lyme-diseased ticks?)

Plus, Charlie knows that his wife, Melissa (Cynthia Nixon), is having an affair with her boss, the ambitious residential-property developer named Mickey (Alec Baldwin) who is Brenda's husband. Mickey tells his sons that Long Island real estate will soon make him a millionaire; Brenda can't stop recalling how much happier they were back in Queens.

Martini scripted this proficient but mostly unsurprising movie with his brother Steven, and the two have acknowledged that it's autobiographical. So naturally the story turns on the younger generation — especially on Scott.

Regularly bullied at school, Scott takes lessons in macho from his obnoxious father and his older brother Jim (Kieran Culkin), who is home for a visit before beginning a stint in the military. But Scott is tormented less by other guys than by his seemingly hopeless love for longtime friend Adrianna (Emma Roberts), who lives next door. She is, of course, the daughter of Melissa and Charlie.

Sly Adrianna looks out for bland Scott, but she tells him she prefers to date older boys. Still, the two have a crucial bond: the emotional wreckage strewn by their parents' entanglements.

While the movie focuses on Scott and his idealized crush, Hutton and Baldwin give the most colorful performances. Charlie and Mickey's near-confrontation in a bar shows how much more compelling Lymelife could have been if the Martinis had downplayed the coming-of-age-kids stuff.

Conventionally, the director sets the period with TV reports (the seizure of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran) and pop-culture fandom (Scott wants to be Han Solo). The music, which ranges from Boston and Bad Company to Frank Sinatra, is less chronologically specific, and sometimes kind of confusing.

The movie concludes with tracking shots of homes, and a foreboding reflection in a new house's glass exterior. Yet for all its emphasis on suburbia and its discontents, Lymelife never quite convinces that its story's environs are essential — or even all that interesting.

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