Terry Linden (Laura Dern) is the most wronged one here since it's English professor hubby Jack (Mark Ruffalo) who is stepping out on her with close friend Edith Evans (Naomi Watts) but, with her nagging nature and late-in-the-day histrionics, she fails to spark much sympathy. Edith's husband Hank (Peter Krause) doesn't seem quite as victimized by Edith's infidelity perhaps because he's hitting on Terry when the opportunity arises. Besides, there's already something distant in this marriage. Both couples have kids.
We don't know exactly why Jack has lost interest in Terry but the best guesses might have something to do with her household sloppiness and general lack of personality. There is also the possibility that it's a purely hormonal intoxication with Edith, the fox of the group, no contest. Despite the steam that's building between the two-households, stopping well short of actual wife-swapping, they maintain the appearance of New England harmony by jogging and watching TV together.
The combustible situation is more an emotive outing for an ensemble cast than it is a smart vehicle for insights into marriage and desire. When truth rears its ugly head, and motivations are exposed, the issues are joined head on but the dialogue seems more contrived than visceral and the tale wanders deeper into superficiality. A somewhat sidelined issue with potential traction is the negative effect unfaithful parents have on their children, but their sense of helplessness because of adulterous conduct doesn't get much focus. Despite that, the performances by the young cast of Sam Charles, Haili Page, and Jennifer Bishop stand out as the most honest.
The people who voted this a screenwriting award (at Sundance) need to have their pathos meters readjusted as well as their tendency to read more meaning into a film than the film itself provides. The exemplary actors need to find better material and less tiresome minds at the helm than those provided by director John Curran and writer Larry Gross, who adapted the film from two Andre Dubus short stories. Dubus' story "The Killing" was the basis for In the Bedroom in 2001.
She lives in England, actually.
Run time: 101 mins
In Theaters: Thursday 11th November 2004
Box Office USA: $1.9M
Box Office Worldwide: $2M
Distributed by: Warner Independent
Production compaines: Front Street Productions, Renaissance Films, Warner Bros.
Contactmusic.com: 2 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 65%
Fresh: 80 Rotten: 43
IMDB: 6.4 / 10
Director: John Curran
Screenwriter: Larry Gross
Starring: Mark Ruffalo as Jack Linden, Laura Dern as Terry Linden, Peter Krause as Hank Evans, Naomi Watts as Edith Evans, Sam Charles as Sean Linden, Haili Page as Natasha Linden, Jennifer Bishop as Sharon Evans, Jennifer Mawhinney as Audrey, Amber Rothwell as Lauren, Meg Roe as Lollipop Girl, Jim Francis as Joe Ritchie, Marc Baur as Plumber, Patrick Earley as Jim, Ginger Broatch as Natasha Linden
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