‘Lymelife’: Few things new in coming-of-age tale

  • By Robert Horton Herald Movie Critic
  • Thursday, May 7, 2009 2:06pm
  • LifeGo-See-Do

As “More Than a Feeling” chugs on the soundtrack and sport coat collars widen into straitjackets, we recognize the 1970s on the screen. That’s the era; the location for “Lymelife” is the Long Island suburbs, where angst is growing like weeds.

Those weeds hide the presence of the deer tick, the insect that spreads the newly identified Lyme disease. The locals are nervous about the bugs, and other things.

Our guide to this world is 15-year-old Scott (Rory Culkin), whose parents (Alec Baldwin and Jill Hennessy) appear to be drifting apart.

Scott’s older brother (Kieran Culkin) is back on leave from the military, just long enough to assess the deteriorating situation at home — and help his brother deal with a bullying schoolmate.

One character actually is suffering the effects of Lyme Disease: the father (Timothy Hutton) of the girl (“Nancy Drew” star Emma Roberts) Scott has a crush on. Cynthia Nixon plays her bored, frustrated mother.

Hutton gives his best performance in years, and he couldn’t look worse: bloated and groggy, he wanders through the woods around his property, sometimes packing a rifle. He has one scene, facing down Alec Baldwin in a tavern, that truly wakes the movie up. Baldwin’s on his game, too.

The movie needs waking because “Lymelife” treads such well worn, “Ice Storm”-like turf. The problems of young Scott aren’t in any way unusual, even if Rory Culkin (part of the acting family that includes older bros Macaulay and Kieran) gives a quietly convincing performance.

But “Lymelife” isn’t a waste, either. Filmmaking brothers Derick (director) and Steve (composer) Martini, who wrote the script together, have considerable savvy about assembling a movie like this. Plus, they grew up on Long Island, and know something about the habits of the natives.

The scenes have snap, and the momentum builds to a concluding sequence that challenges the audience in a way that was common in the 1970s, but maybe not so much today.

In short, a well-executed exercise, but somewhat small potatoes. If the particular vibe of the late ’70s means something to you, that might be enough to justify a look.

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