We Don't Live Here Anymore

2004, Movie, R, 104 mins

Review

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Think of this four-character chamber piece as BOB & CAROL & TED & ALICE go to hell. Australia-based director John Curran's (PRAISE) incisive examination of marital misery is an impeccably acted, spiritually draining dissection of adultery in a bucolic college town. Hank Evans (Six Feet Under's Peter Krause) and his good friend Jack Linden (Mark Ruffalo) are both professors at Cedar County College. Aspiring novelist Hank teaches creative writing, while Jack introduces undergrads to God and meaninglessness in Tolstoy's The Death of Ivan Ilych. They go running together and drink together, but their marriages couldn't be more different: Hank and his emotionally reserved wife, Edith (Naomi Watts), share a tacit understanding that whatever they do in other people's beds remains outside of their clean, impeccably ordered home. Jack's house, meanwhile, reflects the state of his marriage to Terri (Laura Dern) — messy and loud with the sounds of drunken arguments that usually end in the wee hours of the morning with Jack storming out of the house. During a beer run on a woozy summer night spent drinking and dancing, Jack and Edith give in to temptation and make a date for the following afternoon, which they'll spend making love in the nearby woods. Back at the house, Hank puts the moves on Terri, who, unlike her husband, still has a shred of faith in her marriage vows and fends Hank off. But as summer turns to fall and Jack and Edith's affair becomes an ongoing thing, Terri begins to suspect Jack's infidelity, though she has no idea that the other woman is her best friend. Terri decides to lash out at her philandering husband through the one weapon at her disposal: Hank. Screenwriter Larry Gross fuses together two related novellas by the late Andre Dubus, whose short story, "Killings," served as the basis for Todd Field's IN THE BEDROOM (2001). Though the violence in this film never becomes physical, the psychic wounds these people inflict on one another cut so deeply you wish it would. It's a grueling experience — Jack and Terri could give WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF?'s George and Martha a run for the money — but it makes for some terrific acting. Dern is the standout here: She's all hair and sinew, love and rage, and her performance is the very best of her career. leave a comment --Ken Fox

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