F.I.L.M. of the Week (June 4, 2010)

4 06 2010

The “F.I.L.M.” (First-Class, Independent Little-Known Movie – for those who needed a refresher) of the Week will return to some dark and hard-hitting material next week, but I will ease the transition from comedy to tragedy with something a little bit in between.  “You Can Count on Me,” one of the movies on my bucket list of Oscar nominees from the past decade, really grabbed my interest a few weeks ago.  It’s a smart, witty dramedy that treads on the familiar grounds of family issues but never feels contrived or recycled in the slightest.

There’s two reasons for that.  The first is Kenneth Lonergan, the film’s director and writer.  His script is insightful and sensitive, and it gives an authentic look at the ripple effect of a self-destructive brother’s return home to his distraught sister.  It lets the events play out in a way that is both touching and devastating.  We really come to know and care for these characters through their triumphs and their mistakes – and there are plenty of both.

But the second reason is the main reason for the movie’s success: leading lady Laura Linney (alliteration fully intended).  She plays emotional and tense women often, but she plays them with such conviction and strength that I can’t find it in me to be bothered by it.  Here, she uses her incredible energy to bring Sammy, the single mother and bank employee, to vibrant life.  Already collapsing under the weight of single parenthood, Sammy is forced to take on responsibility for her troubled brother Terry (Mark Ruffalo) who seems to be incapable of controlling himself.  With a new boss (Matthew Broderick) at the bank, she is forced to devote herself more fully to her job.  This leaves her child (Rory Culkin) under the care and influence of Terry, who exposes him to new ideas and heightens his curiosity about his father.  Linney perfectly animates Sammy’s inner conflict: doing what is best for the two people who need her or doing what makes her happy.

But there’s more good things about “You Can Count on Me” other than its two Academy Award-nominated facets.  Mark Ruffalo delivers a fascinating and astonishing performance.  He’s always trying to do what is right, but his moral compass often leads him in the wrong direction to do it.  Matthew Broderick is comic gold as the demanding and borderline obsessive-compulsive bank manager; he is equal parts charm and repulsion, and it’s always fun to watch him.  On the surface, this may be a movie about ordinary people living ordinary lives.  But thanks to a powerful narrative and compelling characters, it really is extraordinary.

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9 responses

4 06 2010
Red

I love this film. Hell, I would go as far as to say that this might be my all-time favorite “F.I.L.M.” The script was wonderful, and the acting was brilliant. One can pretty much never go wrong in watching Linney do her work. I think it was Heather that pointed out that she even made Congo halfway watchable, that’s how great Linney is.

4 06 2010
Marshall

Honesty, if she doesn’t get an Oscar this decade, I’ve lost hope in the Academy.

6 06 2010
Red

I’m with ya, man. You know what would be a fantastic movie? One with Linney, Blanchett, Swinton, and Cotillard. And then just throw in Streep for the hell of it. It would be like “The Hours”, but with more star power and actually captivating all throughout.

6 06 2010
Marshall

It would need to be extremely well-written and it would also need Kate Winslet to round out the ’00 powerhouse actress cast.

7 06 2010
Red

Haha, right after i put that in I thought, “shit, i left out Winslet…hope he doesn’t realize it.”

7 06 2010
Jennifer

This looks great; Mark Ruffalo and Laura Linney both look fantastic. Ruffalo is one of my favorite (and almost an under-rated) actor, and when I read he was in this I immediately added it to my Netflix queue.

7 06 2010
Branden

I am so glad that you highlighted this movie, Marshall. It is one of my favorites. I saw this after Laura Linney was nominated on Sundance and loved it. It was so real. It sucked that Mark Ruffalo wasn’t nominated as well.

7 06 2010
Marshall

Happy to highlight the best, Branden! And Ruffalo’s snub stings even more because the Academy STILL hasn’t nominated him … hopefully he gets a long overdue nod for “The Kids Are All Right.”

7 06 2010
Branden

My fingers will be crossed.

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