on the page magazine

issue no. 2, spring 2001


You Can Count on Me, trust me.

by Samantha Schoech

I want you to go see this movie so badly, I just feel like shouting at you. I don't want to have to explain why this is by far the best movie I've seen all year. How everything, from the music (a mixture of Bach's haunting "Aus Liebe will mein Heiland sterben" and Loretta Lynn's "The Other Woman") to the lush thickets of rural New York, imbues the movie with a sense of loss and sadness and a sort of generosity. I wish I didn't have to talk about how this is the only movie in my memory with the emotional depth of real life. How it contains a single mother and a drug-using brother and an extramarital affair, and how it manages to avoid being moralistic or prescriptive even for a moment.

I guess I should tell you about Laura Linney and her character, Sammy Prescott. How she does awkward so convincingly you feel like yelping. How, even though being a single mom in upstate New York and working as a loan officer in a tiny bank is nothing you ever dreamed for yourself, you will almost want to be her. How even though she is the good sibling, she keeps screwing up in the most delicious ways. How she has, by Hollywood standards, a big butt. How great that is to see. Do I even have to mention the Academy Award nomination for Best Actress?

I suppose I'll have to tell you about Mark Ruffalo, who looks eerily like Erik Estrada at moments and has been called the "second coming of Marlon Brando." How he is so good and charming and subtle and handsome that it feels like you are watching your own fucked-up little brother. How he manages to make you want to kill him and save him at the same time. How, even though you quit quite a while ago, you will want to smoke because he does and you want him to like you.

I don't want to have to go into the whole Matthew Broderick thing—to explain why his portrayal of the uptight new branch manager at the bank is so good. How his character is at once threatening and pitiful. How even the way he eats his hamburger makes you understand how bad his marriage is, how awful it is to be him.

And let me just say, to get it out of the way, that Rory Culkin's wide-eyed performance will change all your opinions about child actors.

It makes me anxious to have to explain why seeing this movie will make you hate big Hollywood productions even more. How it will make you resent them, even, for assuming you are so dumb, so simple-minded. Yes, I'll admit that it is simply the story of a relationship between a brother and a sister who were orphaned as children. I'll have to allow that it has no special effects, no explosions, no murders. To be fair, I'll have to mention that it is more like a play than a movie. If you like car chases and bank robberies, you might be disappointed. But maybe not. Kenneth Lonergan's screenplay is so good it is like reading a perfect short story—condensed, dramatic, layered, beautiful. If I tell you that it won the Best Screenplay award at Sundance, will you be satisfied?

I really don't want to have to go into all that. Maybe I should just tell you straight out that as you are watching it you will recognize the complexity of real life. I wish I could just tell you to go see it. That you won't regret it.

Samantha Schoech is a contributing editor at On the Page.

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