Posted by schnolis on May 6th, 2009 filed in Reviews

LymelifeGrowing up is difficult in the best of times. As teens, we’re bombarded by conflicting messages and social pressures. We haven’t had a chance to truly understand ourselves or how we fit into the larger world. All this occurs while we have an over-abundance of brain-addling hormones coursing through our bodies. It’s inevitable that we stumble a few times on our way to adulthood.

Scott Bartlett (Rory Culkin) is a fifteen year-old growing up on Long Island. In so many ways he’s a typical kid growing up in the late 70s/early 80s. He’s got a star wars toy collection, a girl he likes, and he gets picked on in school. But Scott is playing against a stacked deck. His mom Brenda (Jill Hennessy) and philandering dad Mickey (Alec Baldwin) aren’t getting along. His brother Jimmy (Kieran Culkin) is back home on leave from the Army. Adrienne (Emma Roberts), his girlfriend, keeps prodding him along but he’s too uncertain and timid. Her dad Charlie (Timothy Hutton) has contracted lyme disease and sits in a basement closet all day while her mom Melissa (Cynthia Nixon) is beginning to come apart. The tension and disharmony keeps piling on everyone.

Scott handles this onslaught of family issue like he handles everything–with a cool detachment. Things just seem to roll off of him, like when he lets a bigger classmate beat on him instead of fighting back. Mickey and Adrienne both push him in their own way to engage his own life, with some moderate success. Scott’s just on his own time, and figures out his own path by the end.

This is the kind of movie where things don’t truly get resolved. I think we get enough hope that Scott is going to make it through this trying time in his young adulthood. All people, whether they are strangers or our immediate family, are going to have their own problems. It is not up to us to solve them. We must focus on ourselves and make sure we’re doing what’s best for us, and maybe we’ll show others find their way in the process.

What I liked: A terrific cast. Rory and Kieran Culkin both deliver very solid performances but Alec Baldwin dominates the screen whenever he’s on. Even when he plays degenerate characters he stays sympathetic and likable. He’s a real gift. I think the movie revealed things through Scott’s perspective more than through a neutral third-person perspective, which was a little odd until I caught on to it.

What I disliked: It’s hard for me to find things I didn’t like here. This is my kind of movie in so many ways. Sometimes characters showed too much restraint, and kept their thoughts inside too long. Many story lines for these characters roll off the tracks right in front of our eyes in this film, but I didn’t get the sense that things would have progressed naturally to that point. It felt a little like a trick in some ways.

Rating: 8 of 10

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