We Don’t Live Here Anymore

If you’ve often thought you’d like to see four respectable actors scream at each other for 90 minutes, have I got a film for you! “We Don’t Live Here Anymore” offers that and little else, forcing its actors — good actors, the whole lot of them — to engage in such melodramatic behavior that you begin to feel sorry for them. Not for the characters, who are all selfish and unlikable, but for the actors who had to play them.

The Lindens, Jack (Mark Ruffalo) and Terry (Laura Dern), are friends with the Evanses, Hank (Peter Krause) and Edith (Naomi Watts). Jack and Hank are best friends, both writing professors at some rustic university in some rustic town where it seems like writing professors would live. They have much in common, including a fondness for beer and jogging. Also, each craves the other’s wife.

Jack has succeeded in bedding Edith, and their well-orchestrated affair has lasted for some time now. Terry suspects her husband is sleeping with Edith, but Hank seems to have no idea he’s being cuckolded, being too busy flirting with Terry instead.

Perhaps already, without even seeing the film, you are detecting what’s wrong with it. It’s about four yuppies who are never happy with what they have and who complain and argue all the time. The premise fails the “Why would anyone want to watch this?” test.

If the four greatest living actors were in the lead roles, and if the greatest living director were in charge, and if the greatest living screenwriter had penned the script, then MAYBE the premise would work. But these actors are merely very good, and the director, John Curran, is not adept enough to wrangle Larry Gross’ over-dramatic script into something palatable.

Curran does achieve a certain artfulness, though, particularly in the first half of the film, before the realization settles in that the story isn’t going anywhere. He seems to believe the film has more to say than it does, and he directs it with soberness and passion. It is a wasted effort, though; the film is nothing more than a series of scenes set in darkened rooms in which grownups argue with and lie to each other. It is a Lifetime movie, only with a better cast.

C (1 hr., 37 min.; R, a lot of F-words, some strong sexuality, partial nudity.)