We Don't Do Continuity Any More
The critics have been spooning over "We Don't Live Here Any More," a new film adapted from two 1970s novellas by Andre Dubus. Dubus's fine-tuned fiction was also the basis for "In the Bedroom," one of the most remarkable films made in the last decade. This time, though, his art is not so well served.
The problem is partly the material. Instead of murder, grief, and revenge, the weighty subjects of "In the Bedroom," the topic here is wife-swapping 1970s-style. I'm tempted to add "pre-feminist 1970s-style," since both husbands are youngish academics married to women who never utter a peep about doing anything more interesting than keep house. The acting is OK (I rarely blame actors for anything). But the story is thin, the sexual equivalent of watching somebody decide not to have a cookie, then decide to have one, then decide not to have another. John Updike did it better in "Couples."
The real problem, though, is a distracting linattention to what film makers call continuity. That usually means keeping details consistent from scene to scene - for example, if a character is riding a green bicycle in the beginning of a scene, he or she should not be riding a blue one a minute later.
The continuity problem here is a bit more serious. Let me quote from the New Yorker's rave review: "The lovely cinematography of Maryse Alberti ... creates a canopy of nature over the characters, season after season, which tells us that life will go on for these four - they may not find happiness, but they will survive. Scene by scene, the movie is precise, vibrant, and, for all its turmoil, moving."
Huh? Watch the scenes unfurl, and you will witness what can only be called season-swapping. One moment it is summer, then fall, then spring, then winter, and so on. Maybe I should give the film the benefit of the doubt and take this as a cinematic metaphor suggesting the frustration of these four individuals whose relationships with one another don't seem to be getting anywhere? Nahh.