We Don't Live Here Anymore

Trust and adultery are the central themes of We Don't Live Here Anymore, director John Curran's (Praise, Down Rusty Down), which plays more like a theatrical play than a movie.  It is based on two short stories by the late Andre Dubus (who also wrote the story that was adapted into In the Bedroom, and whose son, Andre Dubus III wrote House of Sand and Fog), We Don't Live Here Anymore and Adultery.  The four central characters seem to live in their own little universe, apart from the rest of the world, which is the reason why events seem to boil over the way they do.  It's not entirely convincing, but the cast is excellent and delivers strong performances, enough to overlook some of the deficient aspects of Larry Gross' (True Crime, Gunshy) screenplay.

The Lindens and the Evans' live in the bucolic Pacific Northwest, where Jack Linden (Mark Ruffalo, Collateral, 13 Going on 30) and Hank Evans (Peter Krause, The Truman Show, It's a Shame About Ray) teach literature at the local college.  Their wives, Terry Linden (Laura Dern, I Am Sam, Focus) and Edith Evans (Naomi Watts, 21 Grams, Le Divorce) are stay at home mothers for their young children.  All four are friends, and enjoy spending time together.  Both sets of marriages are rocky.  Jack and Terry are no longer intimate, and there is an emotional distance between them.  Edith is recovering from an affair Hank had a while back.  Worse, Jack and Edith are having an affair.  They sneak off for trysts during the day, and when all four are together, grab quick kisses on impromptu errands.

Terry is beginning to notice, which puts even more strain on the marriage.  Jack avoids the entire situation, yet part of him is regretful.  And it's only a matter of time before Hank and Terry find out.  Oddly enough, Hank confides to Jack that a fling every once in a while is fine, and that he lives by those principles.  Terry feels uncomfortable around Hank, because she suspects he is trying to seduce her.  And so it goes.  The absence of pretty much any other character is a little distracting, as is the fact that both women are housewives.  The original story was written a while back, so it may seem normal then, but seems a little outdated, almost quaint by today's standards.  There are other people that appear, but they seem like background noise. 

The most unappealing aspect of We Don't Live Here Anymore is that all four characters eventually sound like they're whining.  It's one big complaint-fest, full of yelling and screaming and very little meaningful discussion.  It's great for Ruffalo, Dern, Krause, and Watts, who get some terrific emotional outbursts and quieter introspective moments in, but in terms of story there isn't much there.  Dern stands out amongst the four.  As Terry, she is trying to cope with her crumbling marriage, the fact that her husband may be cheating on her, and the unwanted advances of a male friend.  Terry is reeling emotionally, and has nothing to fall back on.  On an interesting note, none of these four people are very sympathetic towards the audience.  Each one has some personality flaw that makes it hard to "root" for a particular character.  So while all this add up to a decent character study and a good acting exercise, it doesn't always make for the most interesting of movies.

Mongooe Rates It: Okay.
1 hour, 41 minutes, Rated R for sexual content and language.

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