You Can Count On Me

on November 10, 2000 by Annlee Ellingson
   Orphans at a young age, Sammy (Laura Linney) and Terry (Mark Ruffalo) only had each other growing up. Now adults, they've drifted apart. A single mom, Sammy still lives in their small New England hometown with her prodigious son Rudy (Rory Culkin). After a long absence during which he worked in Alaska and served a stint in a Florida jail, Terry comes to visit (read: borrow money) and ends up staying for a while.

   This proves fortuitous for Sammy as her new boss Brian (Matthew Broderick) refuses to relieve her from her lending officer duties at the bank to pick Rudy up from school and drop him off at the sitter's. In Terry she has a chauffeur and, eventually, a father figure. But Terry's neo-hippie, pool-playing, pot-smoking lifestyle doesn't befit the care of an eight-year-old, and Sammy's pushing her luck at work with her perpetual lateness and unexplained disappearances. That is, until she starts an affair with the boss (whose wife is six months pregnant), balancing the relationship with a local who's proposed to her.

   An ensemble character piece, "You Can Count on Me" counts on great performances, and Linney, Ruffalo, Culkin and Broderick deliver. Linney captures the dichotomy of a woman who asks her priest to pay a visit to her non-believing brother while she leads a less-than-sinless life. Ruffalo deftly balances his character's postmodern philosophical thinker who's yet to get over his little brother syndrome. Culkin lends both innocence and humor to his role. And Broderick, revisiting "Election," relishes in his role as an unhappy, unsuccessful bully.

   None of these characters are unsympathetic--they're just flawed. But ultimately, it's their flaws that drive them apart no matter how desperately they reach toward each other in the darkness of loneliness and fear.    Starring Laura Linney, Mark Ruffalo, Matthew Broderick, Jon Tenney and Rory Culkin. Directed and written by Kenneth Lonergan. Produced by John Hart, Jeff Sharp, Larry Meistrich and Barbara De Fina. A Paramount Classics release. Drama. Not yet rated. Running time: 109 min.

Tags: Laura Linney, Mark Ruffalo, Matthew Broderick, Jon Tenney, Rory Culkin, Kenneth Lonergan, Barbara De Fina, ensemble, priest, faith, prison, infidelity, marijuana

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