This little Indie film opened big at Sundance
and in this supposed off-year for movies, is being hyped as an Oscar contender.
You Can Count On Me is the story of two siblings from a small town
in New York State who were orphaned as children. As the movie opens, the
sister (Laura Linney) is still living in the family home and is now working
at a bank as single mother to an 8-year-old boy (Rory Culkin). She is just
hanging on and barely making it through the day when two wrenches get thrown
into the works. First, her brother (Mark Ruffalo) appears after a
long absence, and second, the bank gets a new manager (Matthew Broderick).
Her brother is an undependable screw-up and the manager is anal retentive
so Linney's life is turned on its head and for a while it looks like the
characters in this film might head into the usual death spiral seen most
recently in Dancer In The Dark
and Requiem For A Dream.
Ruffalo upsets her home life by forgetting to pick up her son taking him
to a bar to play pool, while Broderick gives her a hard time at work and
then begins an affair with her. Meanwhile, Linney is being courted
by a nice local guy (Jon Tenney) who wants to marry her. This is
all very well done and the cast is excellent. And thankfully, it
doesn't end up in a death spiral. This is a breakout film for Linney
who has been around for a while on stage and in films. She is generally
getting cast as the brainy professional type (Primal
Fear, Absolute Power)
but this is her first real lead role and it has a bit more scope.
Broderick seems to be making a mark playing normal guys who turn out to
be a bit slimy when you scratch the surface. He had a similar role in Election.
He's good at it. Let's face it, Ferris
Bueller was a bit slimy. Ruffalo, who I haven't seen before,
is particularly good as the brother. He and Culkin, as the son, have the
most interesting relationship in the movie. Rory is, of course, MacCaulay's
younger brother in real life. Gaby Hoffman, who appeared as a kid
in two of my favorite films, Field
of Dreams and Sleepless
in Seattle, has a small part as Ruffalo's girlfriend. You
Can Count On Me is well written and directed by first-time director,
Ken Lonergan. It is a very small town story where any action out
of the ordinary is noted and judged. On the whole the story is not
very different from a hundred similar films. What sets it apart is the
performances by Linney, Ruffalo and Culkin who add a nice little edge to
the usual domestic drama.