Incoherent review of Lymelife (Derick Martini, 2008)


So, Lymelife is a good movie, just falls short from being anything special. It doesn’t hit any wrong chords, there isn’t much I can criticize it for. It pulls a rather strange premise, about two family’s falling apart because of the effects of lyme disease on one husband, and the paranoia, pain and adultery that ensues because of crumbling family units. It doesn’t bring a lot of new ideas to the “American dream is a scam” kind of films, but it does approach the subject matter with far more honesty than something like American Beauty. It’s truthful, painful and appropriately absurd.

The film really benefits from great casting, Alec Baldwin is perfect (as always) as the alpha male jerk, who shows a surprising amount of depth and tenderness as the father of our “hero” (Scott), who is cheating on his wife. I will be very frank, and admit, a lot of the maleness of this film is elusive to me, and perhaps that’s why I find it fascinating. I understand that he is missing something from his relationship with his wife, but I don’t understand what it is. They’ve fallen apart, that’s for sure, but beyond that his criticisms seems shallow, or at least veiled, while hers are far more pointed and true. There is another moment in the film too, when the younger brother insults the older one (not playfully) for just being a radar guy in the army, calling him a pussy. It struck something painful, a harsh tearing down of his masculinity, but I don’t understand why it’s even something to be ashamed of? I clearly just don’t understand men.

What I do understand, is for the kids, there is some shame in being feminine or not constantly assuring masculinity. These are ordinary kids, not really bullies or macho, but there seems to be this fear of agreeing with the mother, even being like her in any way… as if her qualities as a woman will somehow destroy them. There is a kind of opening up to this later, and it allows Scott to open up to the girl he’s been crushing on since forever. It’s only in allowing the good either of his parents offer, instead of just one, that he is able to find happiness in his life and relationships. The girl is similar in this regard, and through their mutual understanding and affection, they seem to break the cycle that plagues both of their families.

The film takes a calculated amount of risks, though the film never feels quite daring or particularly fresh. It has many sweet, endearing and emotional moments, but they do feel a little calculated and insincere. I can’t quite put my finger on why the film isn’t truly great, but it’s certainly worth seeing.

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