Editors' pick

Lymelife

Lymelife movie poster
MPAA rating: R
Genre: Drama
Coming-of-age story about a teen (Rory Culkin) struggling with love and the crumbling marriage between his parents.
Starring: Alec Baldwin, Kieran Culkin, Rory Culkin, Jill Hennessy, Timothy Hutton, Cynthia Nixon, Emma Roberts
Director: Derick Martini
Running time: 1:35
'

Editorial Review

Lyme disease is a curious ailment to place at the center of a fictional movie. Why not the ol' standby, terminal cancer? Or at least bulimia or schizophrenia or some condition that carries familiar emotional triggers?

But this tick-borne illness is a perfect symbol to bear out the themes of "Lymelife," a movie about how small acts have big consequences and how untreated doubts bloom into full-blown psychodrama. Lyme disease is insidious (like life) and can have a crippling cumulative effect. Like life. Ta-da.

On the surface, above the epidemiological symbolism, "Lymelife" is an engaging dramedy of families and neighbors and extramarital affairs and comings-of-age. It's late 1970s Long Island -- the film makes mention of the Iran hostage crisis, Phil Donahue, Boston's "More Than a Feeling" -- and introspective teenager Scotty (Rory Culkin) is in lust with his best friend, Adrianna (Emma Roberts), and unsure of how to interact with his high-strung parents (Alec Baldwin and a terrific Jill Hennessy; why don't we see more of her?).

It's a typical set of characters, save for Adrianna's father, whose life has been sabotaged by Lyme disease. Timothy Hutton plays him as a good man hollowed out by the nasty condition and cuckolded by his wife, misunderstood and mishandled by everyone around him, a symbol of how people use hurtful words and treasonous actions to infect one another with unhappiness.

"Lymelife," directed by first-timer Derick Martini and produced by Martin Scorsese, balances grimness and levity with relative success. It stops short of quirk. It only flirts with "American Beauty"-style hyperbole. It falls somewhere in between, thanks to Martini's steady hand and a bunch of reliable actors working in good form.

-- Dan Zak (April 24, 2009)

Contains language, sexual content, violence and drug use.