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Reviews by Brandon Judell
Every Day: Ordinary People Redux?
Helen Hunt, Liev Schreiber in "Every Day"
Writer/director Richard Levine's feature debut "Every Day" has much in common with Robert Redford's 1981 directorial debut "Ordinary People." There's a troubled family on the brink of imploding, one partially composed of a teenage son searching for romance, an at-times understanding father, and a mother who's ready to crack. There's even a dead brother (Mom's). And they are all housed, with the exception of the demised sibling, in a pleasant home.
Get out the hankies? Sorry, not for this one. Mr. Levine, who comes from a TV background and is possibly best known for writing, directing, and producing the delightfully cynical ode to plastic surgery, "Nip/Tuck," has a tendency to undermine his beautifully-acted-and-written family drama with a tasteless, unfunny parody of what it is like to work on a cable series that deems to shock its audience weekly. Brian (David Harbour), one of the scribes for this program, even proposes at a daily meeting that a storyline incorporate Mexican women getting their nipples cut off. The head writer Garrett (a role Eddie Izzard no doubt accepted under the delusion he could humanize it) embraces the notion with unbounded glee.
That aside, "Every Day" is an often riveting work, no doubt due to its casting plus Mr. Levine's guidance when he can restrain himself.
Ned (Liev Shreiber) is a writer for the said show who's bit uptight his son Jonah (Ezra Miller) has come out of the closet. Potential pedophiles are everywhere. The more accepting, less worried mom, Jeannie (Helen Hunt), has a career she has to put on hold when she moves her ailing, misanthropic, big-band-loving father Ernie (Brian Dennehy) into the household. And then there's Ethan (Skyler Fortgang), the younger sibling, who practices his violin and acts as the conscience of the tribe.
Well, is this all so terrible if you put aside the fiddle playing? And should they hope for more from life? As Ernie's shrink once told him, "Happiness is an unrealistic expectation."
Well, it depends on how everyone is going to handle the seismic cracks that are starting to shake the family up. There are Ned's inability to write shocking teleplays and his possible seduction by a lusty, coke-sniffing coworker (Carla Cugino) with her own indoor swimming pool; Jeannie's growing disdain for her dad, who's inability to control his body functions are causing her to drop hot pans of lasagna; and Jonah's new tendency to dress like a "hustler" and go dancing with much older college boys.
Sidestepping all stereotypes, Shreiber and Hunt impart an aching reality to their every line. Theirs is a long-wed, loving couple who is not quite sure whether love is enough, especially when the fun factor has fled. And Miller is a revelation as the gay teen who's trying to develop a sexual identity before he is actually ready to have sex. If his dramatic arc had been built up and Shreiber's work antics had been pared down, Every Day would be garnering awards today instead of getting a week or two of theatrical screenings before heading directly to Netflix.
Still, if this January offering is a sign of what American indie cinema is going to unspool in 2011, it will be an extremely fine year at the movies. [Judell]
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