You Can Count On Me Review
In an age where blockbusters with little plot are gradually taking over the multiplexes, it is nice to note that films such as You Can Count On Me are still being made. Not that this film is flawless by any means, but it is still refreshing.
After writing the two Robert De Niro comedy vehicles Analyze This and The Adventures Of Rocky And Bulwinkle, Writer-Director Kenneth Lonergan chose to turn his attentions for the better to familial dramas, and You Can Count On Me earned Lonergan a Best Original Screenplay nomination (ultimately losing to Cameron Crowe for Almost Famous) for his efforts.
Laura Linney plays Sammy Prescott, a single mother who supports herself and her child Rudy (played by younger brother of Macauley Culkin – Rory) by working fulltime in a small local bank. Soon enough, Brian Everett (Matthew Broderick) takes over the job as manager of the bank, and his new work policies start a chain of events that causes Sammy to question her life’s direction. To make matters worse, Sammy’s down-and-out brother Terry (Mark Ruffalo) has turned up needing a place to stay, thus becoming a bad influence to Sammy’s son and also forcing Sammy to confront her family’s past.
You Can Count On Me is hard to summarise, and isn’t really about any of the above, as it’s more of a slice of life tale. The acting is top notch, and the direction, editing, cinematography and script all push the film in the right direction, yet something still feels missing. The film needs to be grittier, more tense in places, and for the first twenty minutes or so it’s a struggle to find out where the film is heading. The subplot involving the death of Sammy and Terry’s parents lacks explanation of relevance, coupled with Sammy’s embracing of religion. This is a major flaw, as the film is essentially about Sammy and Terry’s fractured relationship since their parents’ death. The musical score kept reminding me of Robert Redford’s Ordinary People, a superior film that in hindsight is what You Can Count On Me aimed to be but never reached. Director Lonergan even pops up himself at one point in a cameo as a priest, and this is a shame, considering just how terrible his acting capability is. It’s worrying when director’s cannot even judge how bad they are at acting.
However, Laura Linney, an actress whom I used to think was terrible in everything she was in (Don’t mention Congo), has finally won me over, and she fully deserved her Oscar nomination, although she probably wasn’t strong enough to beat either Julia Roberts or Ellyn Burstyn that year. Mark Ruffalo fits perfectly as Terry, and his natural charisma looks set to win him many more major roles. For personal reasons, I am against Matthew Broderick playing anal retentive middle aged roles (just like in Election). To me, he will always be Ferris Bueller. Rory Culkin is the spitting image of his brother but has turned in a capable performance. I wonder if he’ll follow further in the footsteps by being divorced at the age of nineteen.
Presented in anamorphic 1.85:1, You Can Count On Me has a slightly washed out quality and could look better. Some of the natural green tones appear dull and murky, and most of the skylines appear gloomier than probably intended. That said, there are relatively few blemishes on the print.
Sound is by far and away a minor part of You Can Count On Me, and could be better. Some of the dialogue has that soundstage feel to it, and sometimes the music score, although not loud, is a little too obtrusive on the mix. Even so, a 5.1 and a 2.0 mix is included.
Director’s CommentaryKenneth Lonergan isn’t the most interesting man to hear on a commentary, and the fact that Laura Linney isn’t included is a crime in itself. Lonergan spends the majority of the film elaborating on the plot structures and praising his cast. He really needs someone to bounce his views off, and to feed on the silences.
Making OfThe obligatory interviews of the cast and crew, again with everyone praising everyone else. The featurette runs for approximately eleven minutes, and feels longer.
TrailerThe trailer, like most contemporary ones, manages to paint the film as something a little different from what you actually see on screen. More of an emphasis is placed on Macauley Culkin, and the film is given a more heartfelt status.
You Can Count On Me is a worthy film that is a serious effort at serious drama. It doesn’t quite hit the mark, and seeing it once will probably be enough. People seem to have taken it to their hearts as it celebrates the mundane aspects of life and the little people of the world, but in the twenty first century has it anything to say that hasn’t already been said. To me, the film was a relitively bland effort, and I think its championing is more to do with the glut of blockbusters rather than the film’s actual quality. However, I may be wrong, as the film is ranked in the top two hundred and fifty films of all time on the Internet Movie Database and there are many classics that haven’t made it to that accolade.