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Paramount Studios presents
Brian: Yeah, this really doesn't apply to you, Sammy, but I've noticed that some of the employees are setting their PC monitors to all kinds of crazy colors. Purple, polka dot, what have you. And, it's no big deal, but... I mean, really, this is a bank, you know? It's really not appropriate. So I'm asking that people use a more "normal range of colors" in the future. But like I said, this doesn't really apply to you.
DVD ReviewWhen it comes to taste in movies, my mom is about as mainstream as they come. She likes simple stories with good acting and lots of special effects. More than anything, she appreciates a slam-bang ending (which explains her undying love of The Sixth Sense). As I sat with her, watching the credits roll on writer/director Kenneth Lonergan's You Can Count On Me, she sighed and said, "So, that's the end? Well, nothing really happened, did it?" Little did she know, but she was perhaps summing up the audience indifference when it came to seeing YCCOM in theaters: mainstream audiences aren't used to strictly realistic films, and this film certainly falls into that category.
Laura Linney, in her best performance, stars as Sammy, a single mom in a small town. As a child, she and her brother Terry (Ruffalo) lost their parents in an automobile accident. Years later, the tragedy is still taking its toll on the family. Terry, who never had a proper parental figure, is floundering, a loner moving from job to job and city to city. Sammy, who grew up and learned of the harsh reality of the world well before any child should, is on the verge of smothering her own child, Rudy (Culkin), trying to shield him from those truths. In need of money and a place to stay, Terry returns home to his sister, and the two try to make sense of where they are in their lives, and, simply, why.
I'll give her one thing: my mom was right. From a strictly plot-oriented, narrative standpoint, nothing much does happen in YCCOM. Of course, things don't happen in real life the way they do in most films, and this is a film that seeks to capture the realities of day to day life. The open ending that annoyed my mom is a must, you see, because when in life does a "plot line" clearly end? When is something tied up in a touching monologue, complete with stirring score? Life is a series of moments, not a series of segmented storylines, and such is YCCOM.
For such an immersion into a realism to succeed, everything must seem... well... real. Lonergan's script, coupled with his light, subtle direction, brings such a sense of the mundane to the screen. The dialogue is certainly exquisitely crafted and often funny, but it never feels false. There aren't long, unrealistic speeches, or huge blocks of tedious exposition. Character history is revealed slowly, in increments and by inference. Dramatic moments work because they are developed and earned. Scenes are shot with almost all natural lighting, for a flat, almost documentary feel. The score is metered out, so as not to tweak audience emotion. It's all very true to life.
Realistic performances are a must in such an endeavor, and YCCOM certainly succeeds in this area as well. Laura Linney, in an award-winning role, perfectly embodies Sammy. It doesn't so much feel like a performance as a natural venting of emotion. Mark Ruffalo is likewise excellent, recalling such method actors as Marlon Brando. His low-key, mumbling performance is underplayed to perfection. And Matthew Broderick, continuing his winning streak after Election, once again turns on the smarm in a role the polar opposite of those that made him famous in the 1980s. Finally, Rory Culkin (who looks unnaturally similar to his brother Macaully) comes off well as an introspective, realistic, precocious kid.
So, after the film, I turned to my mom and said, "Nothing happened? No, things did. But maybe nothing was finished." And that about sums it up. If you are willing to take a little reality with your entertainment, than YCCOM is well worth a look.
Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A
Image Transfer Review: Paramount has done a very nice job with this transfer, though at times, the low budget roots start to show. First of all, most looks very good: the colors look strong, if intentionally a bit muted, and fleshtones are accurate. The black level is good, although some scenes show quite a bit of film grain. For once, I noticed no visible edge-enhancement (none!), and nothing in the realm of artifacts. However, several scenes show quite a bit of noticible print damage, including once jarring instance of lines appearing vertically in the frame. Still, this is a very good looking picture.
Image Transfer Grade: B+
Audio Transfer Review: This is a straightforward mix that suits the film, but one that won't give the surrounds a workout. At times, the rears kick in with a bit of the score or some ambient noise, but most everything is relegated to the front. The dialogue sounds crisp, clear, and natural, with only one noticeable instance of ADR. The mains fill out the score a bit more, and the front soundstage is acceptably wide for a film of this nature.
Audio Transfer Grade: B
Disc ExtrasAnimated menu with music
Scene Access with 19 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by writer/director Kenneth Lonergan
Layers Switch: 00h:55m:13s
Extras Review: Paramount has blessed YCCOM with a nice little extras package. The 12-minute featurette A Look Inside offers just that, through interviews with Lonergan, Ruffalo, Linney, and Culkin. Obviously, most of this material was pulled from the promotional EPK, but it is still interesting to see real enthusiasm for the project from all involved. The trailer is also present, in full screen, complete with several spoilers.
The major extra is the commentary from writer/director Lonergan. His comments are fairly dry and his speech is anything but laconic and succinct, but when he gets going, he does offer some interesting insights into the "message" of the movie and the development of the characters.
Extras Grade: C+
Final CommentsYou Can Count On Me was certainly one of the best films of 2000, but it came and went in theaters without making much of a box office impression. I suppose most mainstream audience members didn't see much of interest in a realistic, slice-of-life story where nothing strictly "happens." Perhaps it will find the audience it deserves on video. The nice DVD from Paramount will certainly help.
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