You Can Count on Me

Bomb Rating: 

Maybe Terry's last girlfriend got eaten by a Dingo.

The only thing I knew about this film prior to seeing it was that it won an award of some sort at Sundance. Here's what that means: One person in the entire audience mentions in the lobby that she thought the film was "brilliant" and is overheard by about a hundred people. Not wanting to appear foolish, each of those people then turns to somebody and comments that they, too, think the film is "brilliant." This sort of behavior then travels all over Sundance unchallenged, without a single person daring to suggest that perhaps the movie lacked any narrative drive whatsoever

In the opening of the movie, a couple has a head-on collision with a semi truck and is killed, leaving their two children to be raised by wolves or whatever -- we don't know. They're at home alone with the sitter when the cop comes by, and that's that. I guess they tossed them into the street or the family dog raised them. Anyway, writer/director Ken Lonergam skips ahead thirty years and picks up with the lives of Sammy (Laura Linney) and her younger brother Terry (Mark Ruffalo). Laura has a kid, Rudy (Rory Culkin), and still lives in their hometown, while Terry is a wanderer. He needs money, so he decides to pay Sammy a visit.

First of all, I know what Longergan is trying to do here. He's trying to suggest that the early death of their parents shaped both Sammy's and Terry's life in a particular way. First, no duh. Though their lives appear dissimilar at first, neither appears good at forming lasting attachments. Terry's disconnect is with place. Sammy's is with people. How do I know what happened to them in those intervening thirty years? I know that those young years are the "formative" times, but it's not like those other thirty didn't exist. Maybe Terry's last girlfriend got eaten by a Dingo. How the hell do I know? That's got to have an effect on a guy. And perhaps Sammy was making pudding one night and accidentally got a nipple ripped off in a freak mixer accident. That stuff sticks with you.

I guess we'll never know. When Terry first gets to town, Sammy hits him with all this religious "do you go to Church" stuff, suggesting that Terry's life might have more meaning if he did. Later, she brings her priest by to talk to him. I'm not exactly sure what was going on here, dramatically-speaking, but it pretty much summarized religion for me. Sammy, believing in some moral authority of hers, tries to tell Terry what he should do. Meanwhile, Terry is screwing her on-again, off-again "boyfriend" Bob (Jon Tenney) AND her new boss, Brian (Matthew Broderick). If that isn't religion in a nutshell, what is? Besides, if there was really a God, he never would have allowed the image of Matthew Broderick having sex to appear on screen.

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