Published on June 16th, 2005 | by Guest Editor0
We Don’t Live Here Anymore
Cast: Mark ruffalo, Laura Dern, Peter Krause, Naomi Watts
Jack Linden (Ruffalo) and Hank Evans (Krause) are friends. Both teachers in the English Department at their local university, theirs is an easy-going relationship of running together and drinks and nachos in a local bar after work. Jack’s wife Terry (Dern) is best friends with Hank’s Edith (Watts), and the four regularly have drunken dinner parties where, once the kids are in bed, the music gets turned up and the booze and conversation flow freely.
But, as with so many apparently happily married couples, all is not well. The passion has gone out of Jack and Terry’s marriage, buried under the pressures of raising a young family and struggling with their finances. Hank, on the other hand, while fond of his wife and daughter, and of the domestic support Edith provides, definitely puts himself, his writing career, and his serial affairs first. Terry and Edith are absolute opposites: Terry is a slob, overwhelmed by domestic responsibilities, while Edith’s home is immaculate, quiet, tidy, and characterless.
What Terry doesn’t know, but is beginning to suspect, is that Jack and Edith are having an affair. But what begins as a lighthearted, playful romp rapidly turns sour, another trap that threatens both marriages and forces both couples to sift through the emotional wreckage.
Featuring as it does, marital infidelity, mental cruelty, and four central protagonists bed-hopping, We Don’t Live Here Anymore bears more that a passing resemblance to Closer, but is more satisfying, if more conventional, than the earlier film. We know a bit more about the couples, and see how they have come to this impasse. We see how Jack did love Terry, we see his tender relationship with his children; we see the competition between the two men; we see Edith’s struggle to come to terms with Hank’s ongoing infidelity. The meanness and immaturity don’t come in a vacuum; though the characters behave monstrously they are believable – even if we have never cheated on a partner, most people have been childish and spiteful to their loved ones.
The performances are all strong, though on a purely personal level I love Mark Ruffalo. He’s such a completely, compulsively watchable actor, whatever he’s in – stoned in Eternal Sunshine, sleazily sexy and ambiguous in In The Cut, cute as a button in 13 Going On 30 – and a total chameleon. Here he turns in the kind of muscular performance that justifies him being compared to Brando, ably partnerned by Dern, who its good to see back. Its also great to see women playing their age – Dern and Watts are gorgeous, obviously, but they look real – Dern doesn’t have a gym buffed body, she looks like a woman who has had children, while Watts’s slenderness suits Edith’s nervy, ethereal characterisation.
It’s not a very happy film but is an interesting and honest look at modern relationships and the cages we build for ourselves. We think we’re making a life – marriage, mortgage, kids, car – but is it a life or a cage? The love that people feel for each other doesn’t necessarily translate into tranquillity and honesty and happiness. Both couples struggle to communicate and the cruelty that they display is often a result of their frustration. There are some lighter moments, particularly one very funny scene where Edith’s daughter Sharon, and her dance class perform a highland dance called ‘The Angry Housewife’, and also the little character flaws and foibles that all the characters possess. Not as sexy as Closer, less glam; far more revealing.