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You Can Count on Me
2000 - R - 111 Mins.
Director: Kenneth Lonergan
Producer: Barbara De Fina
Written By: Kenneth Lonergan
Starring: Laura Linney, Mark Ruffalo, Rory Culkin, Matthew Broderick, Kenneth Lonergan
Review by: Greg Ursic
   
As a committed movie junkie, I always suffer from withdrawal whenever I go off for my yearly sun and sand vacation, so upon my return I typically gorge myself on whatever happens to be playing at the local cineplex. November 2000 proved to be particularly painful, with such fare as 'Little Nicky' and 'Red Planet', each movie seemed to be more odious than the last. With hope waning, I dragged myself to the press screening for a film I knew nothing about and found one of my favorite films of the year.

Only children when their parents died in a car accident, Terry and Sammy Prescott grew up relying on one another. Upon reaching adulthood, they take divergent paths: Sammy stays on in the family home, has a stable job, goes to church every Sunday, and devotes herself to her son; Terry drifts from state to state, takes odd jobs, and concentrates on avoiding commitment in any form. Unable to face the first problem he can't run away from, Terry returns home to ask for Sammy's help. Although their reunion is initially bittersweet, they begin to evaluate their lives and realize that - although they would never admit it - they can learn from each other.

Unlike most films that focus on family dynamics (both indie and mainstream), Kenneth Lonergan's (who also wrote, "Analyze This") does not rely on gimmicks or Jerry Springeresque style dark secrets to tell his story. "You Can Count On Me" is one of those rare films that is simultaneously real and entertaining: the characters could be anyone you know, the dialogue, conversations you've probably had, the feelings, universal and the small-town setting so charming you never think "Hollywood. The story is bolstered by an amply talented cast

Laura Linney, in a performance that earned her an Oscar nomination is captivating as Sammy, the tightly wound single mom, who is always coming to her brother's rescue. She is strong and confused and terrified of what might happen if she steps out of her ordered life. Mark Ruffalo is brilliant as Terry the somewhat simpleminded black sheep brother, who always manages to run afoul of life. The fluidity of their exchanges made me wonder how much time they had spent together, and if they improvved any of the dialogue as they gelled so effectively. Rory Culkin, the youngest of the Culkin clan, turns in a deliberately understated performance - no screaming or hands cupped over ears - as Sammy's son. His relationship with Terry is both touching and troublesome, as he shows Terry that maturity isn't something to be feared. Matthew Broderick's take as the anti-Ferris - a character who is so uptight that he forbids employees from using any strange background colors on their computer screens – is positively joyous and one of his finest performances ever. Finally, Lonergan's cameo as the non-judgmental, balanced priest reveals that he is capable of fleshing out the characters he creates, a rare gift for any writer/director.

'You Can Count on Me' film is funny, serious, touching, intelligent and brilliantly executed. It proved to be a breakout film for it’s stars was the year’s sleeper hit. If you haven’t seen, rent it. If you have, it's worth renting again.
 
Movie Guru Rating
An important film.  A substantive artistic achievement.  Resonant. An important film.  A substantive artistic achievement.  Resonant. An important film.  A substantive artistic achievement.  Resonant. An important film.  A substantive artistic achievement.  Resonant. An important film.  A substantive artistic achievement.  Resonant.
  4.5 out of 5 stars

 
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