You Can Count On Me
Adult siblings spend some insanity-inducing quality time together in this solid brother-and-sister drama.
Sammy (Laura Linney), an outwardly conservative single mom, appears to have it all -- a good job at her small-town bank, a nice house for her cute kid (Rory Culkin), an available lover (Jon Tenney) with husband potential. Then her rule-breaking brother Terry (Mark Ruffalo) drifts in for a visit, and the orderly existence Sammy has worked so hard to create quickly crumbles. Can the sibs save their troubled relationship from the stresses threatening to pull it apart?
Linney ("The Truman Show") digs into her beautifully written, surprise-filled character, keeping the piece on solid dramatic ground from beginning to end. In a potential breakthrough performance, Ruffalo ("Committed") mumbles his way through the film with a low-key, Jason Patric-ish intensity that amusingly compliments Linney's emotional high-wire act. Matthew Broderick puts a pleasing spin on his clean-cut image with strong supporting work as a fuss-budget bank manager capable of taking a couple of unexpected turns himself.
Playwright and screenwriter Kenneth Lonergan ("Analyze This") makes an impressive debut as a writer-director with this sure-handed effort, co-winner of the grand jury prize at the Sundance Film Festival. There's no easy-to-market high concept here - just involving, unpredictable characters, slowly rising tension and generous doses of character comedy achieved with old-fashioned dramatic know-how. Lonergan makes a particular point to steer clear of storytelling clichés, often implying rather than actually playing out stock moments such as any early one in which a cop tells a teenage Sammy that her parents have been killed in an auto accident. The filmmaker's instincts don't fail him in a big way until the ending section, which runs on a bit too long and saps some of the energy he's worked so hard to generate.
Depend on "You Can Count On Me" to deliver quality drama for the whole dysfunctional family.