I'm a sucker for coming-of-age films because they chronicle children going through the awkward stages before becoming adults, responsible or otherwise, perfect or otherwise. An entry at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival, "Lymelife" is one of those films, being somber, sweet and quirky. It's no surprise Martin Scorsese executive-produced it, since it slightly echoes his dramedy, "Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore."
The title refers to Lyme disease, which is the cause of rampant paranoia in a central Long Island town, where 15-year old Scott Bartlett (Rory Culkin, "Signs", "Mean Creek" and kid sib of thespians Mac and Kiernan) lives, during the late 1970s. Though he's about to endure Confirmation at his local church, Scott's reluctant through puberty, being a tough guy in his mirror and having a love for "Star Wars" (love the action figures in his bedroom).
Reality sucks, though. His dad Mickey (Emmy winner Alec Baldwin of "30 Rock") is a cad of a real estate broker who's banging his secretary, Melissa Bragg (Cynthia Nixon of the "Sex and the City" TV series and films); his mom Brenda (Jill Hennessey, "Law & Order", "Crossing Jordan") is a nervous wreck, worried about said disease and homesick for Queens; his brother (Kiernan Culkin) is an Army communication officer who might get killed in the Falkland conflict; his longtime friend/crush/Melissa's kid Adrianna (Emma Roberts, "Nancy Drew", "Valentine's Day", Julia's niece and Eric's kid) flirts with other boys and Adrianna's dad/Melissa's spouse Charlie (Oscar winner Timothy Hutton of "Ordinary People" and "Leverage") has gone nuts over deer-hunting since he suffers from said disease. Who said growing up was easy?
Based on his childhood experiences, director Derick Martini is simple yet big with his story (which has a few historical flaws) which he co-wrote with his brother producer Steven. It's pretty much a family affair, on and off the screen (Alec and bro Billy produced the film). Though filmed in New Jersey, since the real Long Island locale's more populated, "Lymelife" perfectly gives off the sense of post-World War II suburbia. The director Martini, with d.p. Frank Godwin, has a comic book viewpoint, looking at detailed scenes like photographs.
The actors are pitch perfect, especially the youngest Culkin, who has a look of a morose, thoughtful old soul, and Ms. Roberts, who compliments him with her sexual boldness (the two have gawky but adorable sex) while making a name for herself, despite having famous relatives. She reminds me of a girl who liked me and I…no I won't cry, damnit! I wish there was a little more of Todd O' Leary (Adam Scarimbolo), a high school thug who harasses Scott, but him enduring consequential beatings are satisfactory.
"Lymelife", like a lot of coming-of-age films, expertly proves that growing up isn't easy, but it can funny.