First time director/writer Derrick Martini offers a new twist on suburbia with his dark comedy-drama, “Lymelife”. Set in late seventies Long Island during a Lyme disease scare, Lymelife is the story of awkward teenager Scott Bartlett (Rory Culkin). His father, Mickey Bartlett (Alec Baldwin) is the richest man in town. He’s developing an entire subdivision in an adjacent neighborhood. Mickey’s a womanizer who happens to be having an affair with his saleswoman Melissa (Cynthia Nixon). The problem is that Melissa is the Barlett’s next door neighbor. She’s married to Charlie (Timothy Hutton), who was bitten by an infected tick and is slowly going crazy from Lyme disease. Melissa is also the mother of Adrianna (Emma Roberts), a teenage beauty who Scott’s madly in love with. Then you factor in Scott’s brother, Jimmy (Kieran Culkin), who’s home on leave from the army. He and their mother Brenda (Jill Hennessey) are both disgusted with Mickey’s extramarital activities. The entire situation gives new meaning to the word dysfunctional.
Lymelife is riveting from the start. We see the world through Scott’s eyes. He’s having a rough time being a teenager. Bullied at school, tired of his father; he puts all of his interest in spending time with Adriana. At first she is coy about her relationship with Scott, but as her world falls apart from her mother’s affair, she is drawn to the gawky boy next door. They find strength in each other. Their teenage romance, above all the bad behavior and decisions of the adults, is the crux of this film. It’s like the pair are holding on for dear life. It’s very touching and realistic.
The ensemble acting in Lymelife is magnificent. Jill Hennessey and Alec Baldwin are especially good as the couple coming to an end. There’s no doubt they love their children, but the charade has gone on for years. And for Brenda especially, the realization that she has been humiliated is great to see on screen. Derrick Martini’s script gives her character a lot to deal with and Jill Hennessey portrays her well.
My only real quibble with the film is the amateurish direction by Derrick Martini. This is his first feature and it’s obvious. The editing, some of the set-ups, really draw away from what is a very well acted film. He cuts in scenes of deer, mostly hallucinations by Timothy Hutton’s character, which tend to disrupt the continuity of the scene. I found it extremely annoying. I almost wish they would release a longer cut in the hope this would be mitigated.
Lymelife is an interesting film that will have audiences drawing different conclusions. It doesn’t have a traditional ending, so there will be good debate about what actually happens in the story. I think it’s a good first effort for Martini, and apart from some style points, is definitely worthy of the accolades it has received.