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Adultery & Other Choices
by Andre Dubus

. "We Don't Live Here Anymore"

Touted as a sexy and provocative drama, this ensemble piece strains the attention span as two couples, each with kids, do a musical chairs study in adultery. The actors are seriously exploring how to make it fresh and meaningful, but the writing binds them to the prosaic as it focuses on sex, confusion and adaptive values.

It's so not fresh that if we haven't seen it lately on the screen, chances are we know a couple or two who are similarly unhappy and floundering in a sea of bad choices.

Terry Linden (Laura Dern) is the most wronged one here since it's hubby Jack (Mark Ruffalo) who is stepping out on her with close friend Edith Evans. Edith's husband Hank (Peter Krause) doesn't seem quite as victimized by the infidelity because his marriage doesn't appear to be as close a match, but that distinction can be argued. Both couples have kids; the kids seem normal, loved and well brought up.

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 a sort of "hip" 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.

Nevertheless, the performances by the young cast of Sam Charles, Haili Page, and Jennifer Bishop stand out as the most honest. But 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 from two Andre Dubus short stories. A more successful adaptation from a Dubus story was "In the Bedroom."

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                                      ~~  Jules Brenner  

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