Film Fare...with Mark Moorehead
We Donít Live Here Anymore
General Audience: B
Two couples struggle to salvage their families and friendships when adultery shatters their predictable and lonely lives. Strictly adult fare. Sexuality and language.
Family Audience: Rated R
Not a family film. Adults with young children will identify with the stress of parenting and marital expectations. Sexuality and language.
We Donít Live Here Anymore takes place in a small rural liberal-arts college town. It involves two college professors and their wives, each seeking to fill a personal void by reaching no further than across the room.
Adapted from two short stories from by Andre Dubus, the movie examines suburban angst, premature midlife crisis and the complexities of infidelity and career stagnation. Jack (Mark Raffalo) and Hank (Peter Krause) teach English and literature at the local college. Theyíre also best friends. They work together, jog together, drink together and share the same woman.
Jack has been rolling in the hay with Hankís wife Edith (Naomi Watts) long enough to arouse suspicion in Jackís wife Terry (Laura Dern).
Although Hank is oblivious to the tryst, Terry becomes so incensed and mentally destabilized by this discovery she decides to ease her pain and engage in a little revenge by seducing Hank .
All this may sound like an episode from the Days of Our Lives or an updated version of the 1969 film Bob, Ted, Carol and Alice. However, this film is more complex and intense than mere soap opera.
We Donít Live Here Anymore is definitely not a wife-swapping sexual fantasy. In fact, it plays out more like a sophisticated American version of the 1976 French film Cousin Cousine. In that film the spouses of cheating mates decide during a wedding reception to seek revenge by running away together, ultimately falling deeply in love.
There are significant differences here, however, including the reality that We Donít Live Here Anymore doesnít groom any winners. Itís like real life. Trust is replaced by suspicion and anger. Everyone loses.
Fortunately for us, the characters are well developed. Each has something in their personality that generates at least some empathy. For example, Hank is a failed writer, suffering from depression and looking for exoneration by hitting on every coed who knocks on his office door.
Jackís having anxiety attacks over his financial problems and stagnant career at school. He feels sorry for Edith. Sheís so attractive, kind and loving that she clearly deserves someone who would appreciate her more than her philandering husband.
Marriage certainly didnít turn out the way Edith imagined it would be, and yet she continues to pretend itís perfect in every way--except when she needs her affection injection from Jack on the way to the mini-mart. Her best friend Terry is a poor housekeeper but runs a tight ship when it comes to her family.
Dern excels in her role as the tough-as-nails wife and mother and poster child for bad parenting. Although her character often demonstrates poor judgment and contradictory behavior, she does it with style.
Dernís character wonít take the dissolution of her marriage lying down, which becomes problematic when she ventures into a brief tryst with skirt-chasing Hank.
Adding some zing to this heavily mined subject, director Curran tells the whole sordid story from the perspective of each of the four players. Itís an effective device thatís entertaining. Watching four close friends perceive the same events and each other so differently is unsettling. Is that what makes so many people often feel misunderstood?
If youíre looking for a character study with a happy ending or at least some resolution, this is not for you. This is a film more reflective of real life where victims and villains are difficult to distinguish, and relationships, past or present, are seldom very tidy.