A nearly perfect cast more than compensates for the over familiarity of elements of Lymelife, the umpteenth coming-of-age drama to roll out of Indiewood in recent years. Derick Martini's film has the gangly, awkward boy crushing on the cute girl next door, the two dysfunctional families they come from and assorted scenes with an over-compensating older brother, a bully and teens really stumbling into sex.
But it has the peerless Alec Baldwin, as an over-reaching Long Island developer dad and philanderer who goes toe to toe with a terrific Jill Hennessy as his Catholic, provincial wife. He's subdividing the woods, building and dreaming big. She's drinking and complaining.
His every put-down begins with, "Boy, you can take the girl outta Queens....."
Their youngest son, Scott (Rory Culkin) endures bullying and the realization that his childhood sweetheart Adriana (Emma Roberts) has blossomed into somebody completely out of his league.
Even a return visit by his tough-guy soldier brother ( Kieran Culkin) can't fix what ails Scott. Adriana's parents make a vivid portrait of a broken marriage. Cynthia Nixon brings brittle bitterness to the unfaithful breadwinner wife who has no more patience for her husband ( Timothy Hutton) and his mysterious new illness -- Lyme Disease.
It's 1979, and Long Island is in a Lyme Disease panic, with moms duct-taping their kids' clothes. Poor Ray (Hutton) -- the avid deer hunter of the neighborhood -- is the agonizing, ashen face of this deer-tick illness. He is depressed, exhausted, laid off but keeping up appearances by wearing a tie every day, pretending to go to job interviews when all he's really doing is hiding in the basement. Nothing that deep happens here, from the "I won't be like my parents" ethos to the personal crises that every character seems to suffer through. Civility breaks down, wounded people lash out by telling each other "the truth," and the children watch and learn from it all.
The players dazzle, but co-writer-director Martini has attrracted this cast with chewy roles and a sharp metaphor, a disease that tears down the veneer of normality and makes Long Island suburban life not only dull and a little ugly, but deadly.