Let’s be clear – Lymelife is not a bad movie. On the contrary, it’s a well made movie on a tiny budget, starring a string of fine character actors with a clutch of awards between them. It’s even executive produced by Martin Scorsese. But it’s still one of the most derivative pieces I’ve ever seen.
Lymelife competently depicts the dark underbelly of Long Island suburbia, in which the weeping sores of society that are lies, deceit, marital dissatisfaction and adolescent insecurity make up the bulk of the plot. Sound familiar? Then you’ve probably seen American Beauty, The Ice Storm or Igby Goes Down. And granted, it’s perfectly acceptable to be influenced by a raft of counter culture – no art that ever helms a zeitgeist or even just coasts along beside it isn’t slightly derivative. Often, it’s better that way – a referential social meme works wonders for those born more than a decade after the film was set (in this case, the 70’s). But the recognition of how painful life can be is surely a given – not a plot in itself.
Scott (Rory Culkin) is an awkward teenager in love with his infinitely more mature neighbour Adrianna (Emma Roberts). His father (Alec Baldwin) cheats, his mother knows, and the neighbours aren’t much better off – Adrianna’s father Charlie (Timothy Hutton) is ravaged by Lyme Disease, while her mother Melissa (Cynthia Nixon) struggles to hold the family together. In short, it’s a pretty depressing set up.
The title is misleading – despite a very fine, unhinged performance by Hutton, the Lyme disease motif fails to ignite, and what you’re left with is a picture of 1970’s suburban American that’s been done to death already. Though the performances are excellent – the weak link is Roberts, who has yet to impress with her blank acting style – there’s still an air of irrelevance about their lives. Rory Culkin carries the film well enough, in a constipated sort of way, but his character seems shallow – where’s the quirky personality that makes the odd looking boys get the beautiful girl? Kudos to one of the world’s most uncomfortable first time sex scenes in the history of cinema, but that the couple ended up there at all was unconvincing.
Perhaps I would have loved this film ten years ago, revered it as the loss of innocence indie gem it wants to be. But compared to meatier versions, Lymelife becomes the portly balding man sitting shyly on the sidelines of a swingers party where The Ice Storm, American Beauty and Igby Goes Down are happily swapping keys, while Holden Caulfield presides in the ether, rubbing his hands in glee.
You don’t hate the bald man – but you probably aren’t that inspired by him either. In short, voyeurism hour is over – either come up with something fresh, or pick up your own keys and go back home.