You Can Count on Me (2000)

YOU CAN COUNT ON ME is a rare find-- a fine, unforced, real-feeling
(comic) drama in a season of *far* harder-trying fare.  (Harder-try-
ing *and* usually less-successful at that!)  Screenwriter-turned-
first-time-filmmaker Kenneth Lonergan directs this sunny, small 
town-set story of a long-separated (but not quite estranged) adult 
brother and sister (Mark Ruffalo and Laura Linney) and their rocky 
reconnection and rockier reconciliation.  [ Insert own "rocky road" 
pun ]  Orphaned since their pre-teens, the sibs are near-exact op-
posites:  he's a dark-haired, darker feeling, oft-roaming, and fre-
quently cash-strapped ne'er-do-well; she's a blonde, beaming, and 
gainfully employed mother-of-one.  She's also divorced, has a lame 
love life, and is somewhat overprotective of her eight-year old son 
(Rory Culkin, yet another of those scene-stealing, perfectly dead-
pan Culkin kids).  Sis still lives at home, too, in the same town 
*and* the same house as their long-deceased parents.

Difficult emotions ensue, their intense affections effected by eq-
ual amounts of long-simmering anger.  The dialogue during these en-
counters is absolutely outstanding-- as real and natural-sounding
as you'll hear this year and without any showy dramatics to gum-up 
the works.  Same, too, with the *non*-verbal stuff:  angered silen-
ces, sad side-glances, split-second facial shifts, and so on. Be-
lievable from get-go, both characters *and* story situations.  In 
fact, the ever-unfolding plot takes a couple turns that, while on 
the surface seem utterly unexpected, make perfect sense in the con-
text of the characters.  (Just like life.  You wouldn't imagine in a 
million years, until it happens...)  Nice, too, that Lonergan lets
his characters get bumped and bruised a bit, both physically *and*

Linney is the best.  Hers' is an Oscar-caliber performance of sunny 
shadings, knowing sorrow, and a modest earthen grounding.  Ruffalo 
is more difficult to warm up to.  Like his character, his perform-
ance is played closer to the best.  His *casting*, however, may be 
the film's most remarkable feat.  In addition to the opposing char-
cterizations, Ruffalo is Linney's perfect *physical* foil, with his 
craggy, more-Neanderthal features a fabulous contrast to Linney's 
smooth, clean-lined face.  Amazing.  Only in the movies.  If there's 
one bonafide gripe to the whole thing, it's Lonergan's abundant use 
of music, both foreground and background.  Quite a few songs and or-
chestral excerpts are played and, at times, while the characters are  
talking.  Which, duh, is distracting.  That said, I dare *anyone* to 
name another film this year that makes better use of a cheatin' 
hearts country song.  You can't do it.  With Matthew Broderick as a 
whiny, weasel-y bank manger.  Oh, and that's Lonergan as the priest.  
(Rated "R"/109 min.)
Grade: A-

Copyright 2000 by Michael J. Legeros
Movie Hell is a trademark of Michael J. Legeros

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Copyright 2001 by Michael J. Legeros -Movie Hell™ is a trademark of Michael J. Legeros