Retro Review: You Can Count on Me

Written: December 19, 2000

A precious realistic script and the kind of feeling that makes you smile is the very backbone that makes “You Can Count on Me” as one of the year’s amazing films.

In this “Sundance Film Festival” Jury winner, Laura Linney, of “Primal Fear” and “The Truman Show”, stars as a stable single mom named Sammy, who can’t seem to get out of the town she was born in. Her day is brightened when she learns that her troubled brother, Terry (Mark Ruffalo) is finally coming home. During that visit he will up root Sammy’s life, enchant her son and teach them both a little about life.

“You Can Count on Me” is the directorial debut of “Analyze This” screenwriter, Kenneth Lonergan, who seems to have the gift for bringing humor to the most unique of situations. I loved the humor in this film especially the moments that made me cry and smile. The film’s realism and blending that with delightful humor is quite an achievement. I wonder if Oscar will bless Lonergan with a script nod. This script is brilliant.

I also loved Laura Linney. I have been watching this actress since she caught my eye in the little seen Steve Martin vehicle, “Simple Twist of Fate” (her first major role). She went on to do a disastrous film called “Congo” but she did her best to bring female strength to her scientist character. She was the definite hi-lite of that film. She then spring boarded with strong performances in “Primal Fear” opposite Richard Gere and “The Truman Show” opposite Jim Carrey.

But I think it was the small 1999 film, “Love Letters” (based on the stage play) that allowed her to give her all. Just from that performance I knew she had arrived and could become a Julianne Moore or Meryl Streep given the right project. That performance still makes me smile today.

In each of her performances over the years, I have always loved Linney’s ability to be real in every scene. In a lot of Linney’s scenes in “You Can Count on Me” I could see the same brilliance that was in “Love Letters”. We can feel her intensity and reflection as she brings Sammy to life.

It’s a wondrous performance. I can definitely see an Oscar nod here.

I also loved the brother and son relationship which for me was quite unique. Where did Lonergan come up with those great situations. I loved the heart-wrenching moment when the brother brings the boy to meet his deadbeat dad. That moment was so real it was amazing.

All the other performances were great as well. Mathew Broderick plays basically the same role he played in “Election”. Jon Tenney, who I haven’t seen in ages, as the chump boyfriend. Rory Culkin as Sammy’s son.

I really enjoyed this journey with Sammy and the way it was a window into her life and not slice out of it.

(5 out of 5)

So Says the Soothsayer.

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