I may be preaching to the choir here, but finally caught "You Can Count On Me" on video last night and was utterly taken with it. After having recently seen "Planet Of the Apes", where I suspected that the producers saved money by persuading a precocious ten-year-old to write the dialogue, "You Can Count On Me" came as a wonderful, surprising gem. It has now settled my stomach after the indigestible fodder that was "Apes".
"You Can Count On Me" is a gentle, realistic character study of two estranged siblings, played perfectly by Ruffalo and the always-brilliant Linney. I found the characters to be convincingly three dimensional. Ruffalo's Terry is an unreliable ne'er-do-well with an ultimately gentle character. Linney's Sammy is a tautly-stretched single mother trying to be perfect for everyone, and her bright, deliberate smile is painful to watch. Even Matthew Broderick's prissy little bank manager came across as a man of weak character shaped by disappointment, and I found the tiny little jokes he dropped when he was less guarded to be pathetic, in the true sense of the word. Watching Sammy gain more self awareness and inner strength at the end of the film is a pleasure, as her change is not borne of some dramatic epiphany. My favorite scene is the one with the minister (played by Lonergan), in which she exhorts him to give her a dose of old-fashioned fire and brimstone rather than sensitive therapy.
Lonergan understands human conversation, and directed to allow for natural pauses between phrases. He also seems to understand awkward silences, and how many were likely to exist in these relationships. I related to each and every one of the characters, even the ones I disliked. I was also pleased to note that the words "you can count on me" were never uttered once in the movie, although they were alluded to. Having them spoken would have rung false and theatrical in my ears.
Some of the (few) negative reviews here seem to take issue with the fact that "nothing really happens" in "You Can Count On Me". I strongly take issue with that. Nothing gets blown up, nobody ends up happily ever after, the siblings don't turn to each other tearfully and admit that "golly, we all learned something that day". Well, let's be frank: when was the last time that happened to you? We all get spoonfed so much pablum in mainstream film - which is fine, as long as you're aware that it's not real food.
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