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Warner Home Video presents
We Don't Live Here Anymore (2004)

"You gotta admit, even adultery has morality to it."
- Terry (Laura Dern)

Review By: Jon Danziger   
Published: December 27, 2004

Stars: Mark Ruffalo, Laura Dern, Peter Krause, Naomi Watts
Director: John Curran

MPAA Rating: R for sexual content and language
Run Time: 01h:38m:50s
Release Date: December 14, 2004
UPC: 085393896621
Genre: drama


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B+ B+B-B- D-

DVD Review

If you're looking for the perfect date night movie, this isn't it. This angsty, very self-conscious look at marriage and adultery is mighty high on the squirm-inducing moments; if you do see this with someone you love, gird up now for the state-of-the-relationship conversation that's sure to follow. We Don't Live Here Anymore isn't always a terrific movie, but it's got a whole lot of truth in it; it may not cohere all that well as a whole, but it's shot through with keen insights about the horrible things that we do to those we love.

The movie is based on two short stories by André Dubus; the title of the first is the same as the title of the movie, and the title of the second is Adultery, so from the jump, it's clear what we're in for. It's a chamber piece for four, essentially: Jack (Mark Ruffalo) and Hank (Peter Krause) both teach at the local college, and they're best pals; that doesn't stop Jack from sleeping with Hank's wife, Edith (Naomi Watts), as Hank and Jack's wife Terry (Laura Dern) are willfully ignorant about the brazen infidelities going on in their houses. The movie treads on a lot of the same emotional territory as does Closer, and with similarly mixed results—a lot of what we're watching is just characters inflicting pain upon one another, and in truth we're not always sure why. If you're inside of one of these relationships, and you share the emotional makeup of these people, you may bleed with them; but we as an audience spend a lot of time on the outside looking in, and the film provides us with few explanations, and many close-ups of the actors in exquisite emotional pain. (Another Mike Nichols picture, Carnal Knowledge, may be the fount from which all these stories spring; there are also some obvious affinities between this movie and yet another Nichols film about self-loathing academics doing nasty things for sport: Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?.)

Occasionally the film can get a little bigthink and precious; it's an unfortunate turn when, for instance, Jack decides to teach Tolstoy to his class, and he intones passages from The Death of Ivan Ilyich on the voiceover track, the movie asking us to draw comparisons. We're also in the realm of Lawrence Kasdan and John Sayles; this movie is generally much more raw, though, with the knowing domestic power from those who have examined the dark side. Jack is probably the central figure, and while Ruffalo is a good and moody actor, at the end of it all the character remains opaque; he's a louse in love with his own pain, and he and Edith as adulterers make for pathetic liars. We spend a good portion of the movie wondering who knows what about whom, but Jack especially seems like a self-pitying jerk, a variation on the Peter Gallagher character in sex, lies and videotape.

It can be easy to dismiss the movie as not much more than drinking and smoking and sleeping with your best friend's wife, but the actors elevate the material with emotional nuance and specificity. Krause's Hank is a case study in passive-aggressive behavior; Dern invests Terry, in danger of being little more than a type, into a rounded, complex character, pretty much on the verge of her nineteenth nervous breakdown; and Watts smolders in her quest for experience, for human connection, because she's not finding it at home. Revelations fly fast and furious in the third act, and Watts's Nora-like epiphany isn't wholly convincing; but there are explosive and truthful things happening inside all those pretty little houses, and this movie gets at a lot of them.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: The widescreen aspect ratio leads director John Curran to favor two shots, the wise choice in a movie about relationships. Unfortunately, he also leans on a couple of rack focuses, which (aside from being so ugly) point up some of the resolution problems with the transfer. Otherwise it looks decent, with only the occasional discoloration here and there.

Image Transfer Grade: B-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital
5.1
English, Frenchyes


Audio Transfer Review: The 5.1 sound mix is full and lush; the musical scoring is used to very good effect. The problem, though, is in many of the dialogue scenes, some of which can be rough going as the couples fight in the I-hate-you-but-let's-not-wake-the-kids hushed tones endemic to bad marriages. More than once, I popped on the English-language subtitles, rather than crank up the volume and risk marital distress in my own house.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-

 

Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 23 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
4 Other Trailer(s) featuring The Aviator, Maria Full of Grace, A Home at the End of the World, Before Sunset
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: Only some trailers.

Extras Grade: D-

 

Final Comments

Strong acting values and a handful of searing insights are what will probably stay with you about this film; it doesn't cohere as well as you might hope, and the disc is unfortunately barren of extras, but many of the scenes here seethe with energy and poignancy.

 


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