A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this intense indie drama perfectly captures the chaos of adolescence, from the body changes that teens experience to their struggle to grasp both the concept and reality of love. That said, it deals with mature themes, including infidelity, chronic illness, and marital discord, with adults seeming as confounded by love and life as the teens. There's lots of swearing and talk about sex, plus some partial nudity. There are also intimations of violence and a persistent sense of sadness and tragedy.
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What's the story?
Long Island, 1979: Lyme disease has hit the suburbs of New York City. But even more dangerous than the illness itself may be the boredeom. Fifteen-year-old Scott Bartlett (Rory Culkin) is red meat for the bullies at school. He has a crush on his best friend, 16-year-old Adrianna (Emma Roberts), who prefers older boys and whose father, Charlie (Timothy Hutton), is falling apart after a tick bite wreaks havoc on his mind and body. Scott's brother, Jimmy (Kieran Culkin), is about to be deployed by the military. Their anxious mother, Brenda (Jill Hennessey), longs to be back in her hometown of Queens, away from her husband. And their father, Mickey (Alec Baldwin), has hit it big in real estate but is having an affair with Adrianna's mother (Cynthia Nixon), who's sick and tired of being with someone sick and tired. Can these two families be saved?
Is it any good?
Atmospheric and powerful, LYMELIFE is a forceful drama propelled by fine performances and first-rate storytelling. The actors -- from the surprisingly vulnerable Baldwin and a haunting Hutton to the revelatory Roberts, who may just be the next Anne Hathaway -- clearly brought their A game to the set. Ditto for director Derick Martini, who deserves credit for allowing his cast room to stretch. The script, by Martini and his brother, Steven, is lyrical, making the most of the Lyme disease symbolism without overplaying it. And witty; even though it's a drama, there are some very funny parts.
But the film does mix a few too many metaphors: There are the deer bearing deadly ticks, the trains whose screeching Long Islanders can never seem to avoid, the dream house that's never lived in. A slightly leaner script could only have improved an already strong movie. But that's hair-splitting; though Lymelife covers the same queasy, family-dysfunction terrain as The Ice Storm and The Squid and the Whale, it does so with a quiet discipline that serves it well. Each character is maddening yet completely understandable. It especially captures the confusion of adolescence, when you feel poised to conquer the world but are confounded by a world that not even adults can fully comprehend.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about whether this movie offers a more realistic look at teen life than other films or TV shows do. Why or why not? How does it approach teen relationships? What role does sex play? Families can also discuss what's happening to the characters. Why are Scott's parents growing distant from each other? And how does their tenuous marriage affect their sons? Does Scott's relationship with his older brother help or hurt his ability to cope with the problems his parents have?
- In theaters: April 8, 2009
- On DVD or streaming: September 22, 2009
- Cast: Alec Baldwin, Rory Culkin, Timothy Hutton
- Director: Derick Martini
- Studio: Screen Media Films
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 94 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: language, some sexual content, violence and drug use
- Last updated: March 14, 2020
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