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Thu June 11, 2009
A quality addition . . .
By John DeSando, WCBE's "It's Movie Time"
"You can take the girl outta Queens, am I right?" Mickey Bartlett (Alec Baldwin)
Dysfunctional families as a theme reached its apotheosis ten years ago in Sam Mendes' American Beauty, a rich blend of realism and fancy involving real estate, coming of age, and infidelity. Just about the same territory is covered in Derick Martini's Lymelife, only this time the metaphors seem forced, the characters less developed, and the denouement less ambiguous. Lymelife, however is a quality addition to the deconstruction of the American dream
It's 1979 America, and Mickey Bartlett (Alec Baldwin) has a burgeoning business developing upscale homes on Long Island. His family life is in decline as witnessed by 15 year old central character Jimmy Bartlett (Kieran Culkin), the only one whose prospects with babe next door, Adrianna Bragg (Emma Roberts), get better with each of his endearing humiliations. Mickey is a philanderer (he is played by Baldwin, after all), a spendthrift, and family neglecter, all of which must be addressed by the film's ambitious albeit incomplete plot.
The story moves gently but inexorably to a strong conclusion, where things seem to settle into their appointed fates, more an affirmation that American life between here and American Beauty hasn't changed much with its defeats and victories abundant. While Lymelife (a reference to the disease present in Long Island and a cumbersome metaphor) gains no new insights about our materialism and sexual exploration, it does present a true look at a time when this American life might have been more complicated than it is now.
John DeSando teaches film at Franklin University and co-hosts WCBE 90.5's It's Movie Time, Cinema Classics, and On the Marquee, which can be heard streaming at http://publicbroadcasting.net/wcbe/ppr/index.shtml and on demand at http://www.publicbroadcasting.net/wcbe/arts.artsmain Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.RR.com