Culkin brothers shine in coming-of-age tale

Mon Sep 15, 2008 4:04am EDT
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By Michael Rechtshaffen

TORONTO (Hollywood Reporter) - Playing like "Juno" junior, the engagingly irreverent "Lymelife" is a period suburban rites-of-passage story with a pitch-perfect cast headed by Alec Baldwin, Timothy Hutton and not one, but two Culkin brothers -- neither of them Macaulay.

Developed with the assistance of the Sundance Institute, with Martin Scorsese serving as one of the executive producers, the film marks the assured debut of Derick Martini, who along with his brother Steven also scripted the 1999 Toronto entry "Goat on Fire and Smiling Fish," which took home the festival's Discovery Award.

For the players alone, a pickup by a specialty outfit would be a no-brainer.

Taking place in the late '70s with Members Only jackets to prove it, the picture is seen through the eyes of 15-year-old Scott Bartlett (nicely carried by Rory Culkin), a gawky New Jersey youth whose family life has hit a dysfunctional wall.

As his uptight mom, Brenda (Jill Hennessy) puts up a brave front, his big brother, Jimmy (Kieran Culkin), is about to be shipped back out to the Falklands, while his real estate developer dad, Mickey (Baldwin), is having a not-so-clandestine affair with his neighbor and employee, Melissa (Cynthia Nixon), as her helpless husband, Charlie (Hutton), has been wasting away with Lyme disease.

All the while, Scott has been pining for their considerably more advanced daughter, Adrianna (Emma Roberts), for as long as he can remember.

Although the Martini brothers' flippant take on one neighborhood's not-so-star-spangled pursuit of the American Dream doesn't quite go the distance, their crack ensemble is uniformly on their satirical game, and having brothers played by actual brothers lends the relationship a rare dynamic that's tough to fake.

And while on the subject of authenticity, props to production designer Kelly McGehee, costume designer Erika Munro and whoever picked out the inspired playlist for making the '70s -- for better or worse -- live again.

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter

<p>Rory Culkin, star of the new drama film "Down in the Valley", arrives for the film's premiere on the opening night of the Los Angeles Film Festival in Hollywood June 16, 2005. REUTERS/Fred Prouser</p>