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We Don't Live Here Anymore

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: We Don't Live Here Anymore

Starring: Mark Ruffalo, Laura Dern
Director: John Curran
Rated: R
RunTime: 101 Minutes
Release Date: August 2004
Genres: Drama, Romance

*Also starring: Peter Krause, Naomi Watts, Sam Charles, Haili Page, Jennifer Bishop, Jim Francis, Amber Rothwell

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1.  Harvey Karten review follows movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review
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Review by Harvey Karten
3 stars out of 4

During one creative writing class in a small, leafy college community, Jack Linden (Mark Ruffalo), an instructor, reads a portion from Leo Tolstoy's "The Death of Ivan Ilyich." A student protests that the ending is downbeat, to which Linden replies that not all stories end happily ever after: sometimes an author just want to give his readers a picture of death. Similarly, scripter Larry Gross, adapting two of Andre Dubus's short stories, unfolds a painful sketch of two couples; Jack Linden, who is married to Terry (Laura Dern); and Hank Evans (Peter Krause) who is married to Edith (Naomi Watts). This is by no means an upbeat story, but while "We Don't Live Here Any More" is not a picture of death itself, it's an intimate, painful tale of a pair of marriages which have been dying for a while, its participants in denial about the seriousness. I suppose we could rejoice that ultimately, Gross will allow the four to part, albeit not amicably, escaping from the bad in order to take their chances separately. Directed by John Curran, the film unfolds upon two people who have quite a bit in common, since Hank and Jack teach the same courses in creative writing in the same small town, the four individuals partying together with surface joy, trying nobly to repress what has not yet been said. Edith, who comes across as the horniest of the quartet, thinks nothing of renting a motel room to further her tryst with Jack, while Terry, despite the smallness of the town, appears oblivious to the cheating ways of her man. Not that Terry is so guiltless–she has been carrying on an affair with Jack's best friend, Hank, while Jack gives no hint in his easy banter with Hank that he is in the know any more than his jogging companion.

The bitter arguments that appear to involve most of Jack and Terry's home life are not motivated by any knowledge of outside affairs, but despite the extra vitriol that comprises her side of the bitter feud, a passive-aggressive Jack is hardly without blame. Though Hank is the cuter male who displays a playful side when discussing his attempts to get published, his wife has eyes only for Hank. You've got to wonder about a college when a writing throws a party just because the New Yorker magazine accepts a single poem.

Director Curran is not shy about sending us graphic pictures of the lovemaking between Jack and Edith, the four performers acting their roles perfectly–with Naomi Watts conveying intense desire whenever she is within an arm's distance or less from the object of her lust. The story gets soapy toward the conclusion, but "We Don't Live Here Any More" makes us think, "Hey, Edward Albee, move over: ‘Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf' is a story that is repeated over and over in the movies and on stage and presumably in the larger reality of life itself.

Copyright © 2004 Harvey Karten

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