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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 29.79%
Average: 17.02%
Pretty Bad: 0%
Total Crap: 2.13%

8 reviews, 46 user ratings

You Can Count On Me
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by Collin Souter

"One Film You Can Count On This Season"
5 stars

Some movies earn the Highest Rating (in this case, the five stars) for conveying a deep, philosophical message through original means (like, say, Dancer In The Dark). Some earn the Highest Rating for exceeding the entertainment value without saying anything deep or profound at all (like, say, Chicken Run). And some earn the Highest Rating just for hitting every note perfectly, honestly and seamlessly. You Can Count On Me falls into that last category.

A movie so simple and wonderfully written, You Can Count On Me tells the story of a brother, Terry, and sister, Sammy, who try to make ends meet as adults, 10 years after their parents had been killed in a car crash. Sammy (Laura Linney), a single mom who works in a bank, lives in the house she had been raised in all her life. She has a boyfriend, but seems hesitant to marry him.

Terry (Mark Ruffalo), has been drifting along on his own from place to place, most notably Alaska. He just got out of prison. He comes to visit with his sister and ends up getting along famously with her eight-year-old son, Rudy (a wonderful performance by the latest Culkin, Rory). Terry takes Rudy to a loud bar-and-grill for a late-night game of pool, and the bond between the two solidifies.

The film consists mainly of daily struggles to get everything right between the three main characters (Terry, Sammy and Rudy). Sammy leaves Terry in charge of picking up Rudy every day from school. A simple task for most, but when you wake-and-bake every day as Terry does, it can be quite the inconvenience.

The movie’s best scene comes when Sammy brings a priest, played by the film’s writer/director Kenneth Lonergran, over to talk to Terry, a non-believer in anything spiritual. We think the scene will end with Terry having a fit and storming out of the room. Instead, Terry reluctantly lets his guard down and we learn his most vulnerable spot, and the subject he likes the least: His own self-worth.

Meanwhile, Sammy has a hell of a time at her day job with her needlessly stern and bullying boss, Brian (Matthew Broderick). Tension rises between them on a daily basis until, one day, they take their tensions out on each other, and an affair ensues. Terry, a Catholic, tries to gain some spiritual punishment for her actions in one of the movie’s funniest scenes, where she casually asks her priest, “What’s the church’s feelings towards infidelity these days?”

One word comes instantly to mind when trying to describe this film: Natural. Not a single line of dialogue or nuance feels forced or written. We basically spend 109 minutes watching likable people try to make sense of their lives while making drastic mistakes along the way. Laura Linney doesn’t try for a career show-stopper performance. She seems so relaxed in her part and she has wonderful comedic timing.

Mark Rufallo has clearly hung out with the kind of guys who smoke weed every day and avoid the deeper questions of life. He gets everything right. The stoner voice, the constant rationalization of stupid actions, and the anger that comes out when the one who loves him most, Sammy, points out the slightest of his faults. But we like Terry. He makes us laugh. We root for him to succeed in life, but we also get the sense that he won’t, simply because he doesn’t feel he deserves to.

The scenes involving Rory Culkin have also been written with a keen perspective on how kids behave. He hasn’t been given anything cute to say. He just wants to believe the fantasy of his real father (who left him years ago) as a good, decent person. He learns later that his father wants nothing to do with him, and rather than have a tearful moment of realization, Lonergran keeps the character brooding and in denial. Culkin doesn’t take his anger out on his mother. He keeps it inside until his mother can’t stand it anymore.

You Can Count On Me belongs in the same category with the best works of Cameron Crowe and James L. Brooks. It has the perfect blend of comedy through human behavior and drama through human mistakes. It has nothing cinematic about it and it doesn’t try to be too deep or profound. It doesn’t use James Newton Howard or James Horner to yank an emotion out of you. Lonegran knows these characters inside and out. He has probably known them his whole life. Who knows what would have happened had this film gone through the Hollywood system of re-writes and over-manipulation?

The movie feels as natural as a conversation between two people who have known each other their whole lives. I can’t find fault with it, and it will most likely be one of the 10 best films of the year.

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originally posted: 12/04/00 02:09:58
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User Comments

4/04/12 David Hollingsworth Intelligent, uncliched look at sibling rivalry 5 stars
6/05/07 Bitchflaps Admittedly well made, but overdeliberate drama didn't hold my attention. 3 stars
2/02/07 adam khan fantastic 5 stars
3/01/06 sbpat21 a perfect movie 5 stars
1/12/06 tatum Very good, realistic look at dysfunction 4 stars
5/05/05 Indrid Cold A subtle, intelligent drama; not exactly edge-of-your-seat entertainment. 3 stars
2/21/05 James Wood Very realistic quiet film with outstanding performances 5 stars
5/19/04 Lisa Brost One of the Best Movies I've Ever Seen! 5 stars
3/22/04 daveupho stunning writing + superb performances = awesome film 5 stars
1/23/04 Brendon One of the best films made. Unforgettable! 5 stars
9/07/03 R.W. Welch Existential family drama, convincingly done. 4 stars
7/08/03 Jack Sommersby A near-perfect masterpiece. Linney is extraordinary -- and so is the film. 5 stars
6/01/03 JoeSco Very Good - Laura Linney is excellent and should be an A-List actress on looks and talent 4 stars
1/01/03 Andy Todes finest american film in last 10 years ... easily 5 stars
11/27/02 swahid malook the best film i have seen in a very long time 5 stars
6/14/02 Simeon Briggs Pure high quality, pacing, character development all of the highest standard 5 stars
5/22/02 Phil M. Afficianado Engaging and "real" --- almost perfect, but the "boss affair" didn't have the ring of truth 4 stars
1/24/02 Paco Quiet, mature film. Heartbreaking, funny, and real. 5 stars
1/06/02 daniboy really enjoyable little film 5 stars
12/07/01 swahid malook it was the best film i had ever seen for along time since mac films 5 stars
10/01/01 David Swinton Great storyline and excellent acting (though can be slow in places) Go see it soon... 5 stars
9/27/01 SJKelley Well acted, well written, engaging. 5 stars
9/19/01 Jim Renwick To many this would be boring but it is simply a very good story on relationships 4 stars
8/18/01 G absolutely boooooringggggg 1 stars
8/07/01 Pierce Lanson A most remarkable unremarkable movie. Laura is extraordinarily beautiful 5 stars
8/07/01 Norm DePlume For fans of psychbabble, the film provides a testbook case of Adult Children/ACOA Syndrome 5 stars
7/13/01 bobbuttons i really enjoyed it 4 stars
7/07/01 Reini Urban The best "major" 2000. Only "Eureka" beat it. 5 stars
7/05/01 Sue Takes a good look at sibling relationships 4 stars
7/04/01 Monday Morning Loved Laura Linney. As for story, too many issues felt unresolved at end. 4 stars
7/03/01 The Bomb 69 good but overrated, solid story and performances, ending was weak though 4 stars
5/13/01 kenstillman ken lonergan hates all the current clichés I hate and avoids every single one of them 5 stars
4/12/01 Jay By far the best film I've seen all year. 5 stars
4/03/01 Kirsten So very true. Love, love, love this film. 5 stars
2/20/01 puckfreak Wait for video 3 stars
2/12/01 Jake Excellent film. A refreshing change from the mainstream. Great cast and story. 5 stars
2/07/01 Angela the most amazing movie that I've ever seen --- I went to the theatres 4 times! 5 stars
1/30/01 janelle see it. you WILL like it. 5 stars
1/11/01 Katsat Very real, touching. Linney has star quality--a prettier, more appealing Helen Hunt 5 stars
12/30/00 Charles Linney & Ruffalo convincingly depict the love/hate tension of sibling relationships 5 stars
12/17/00 Politicsman A good indie in a crappy year does not make this awesome 3 stars
12/17/00 Angus moorehead Now, people who can actually act. Mel Gibson should learn from this movie 5 stars
11/28/00 vitamin_D not one to whip out "fucking awesome" -- this is solid writing, good acting 4 stars
11/27/00 cathyz wonderful, funny, totally engaging 5 stars
11/26/00 lissa hugely affecting--a totally original movie about everyday life 5 stars
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  10-Nov-2000 (R)
  DVD: 26-Jun-2001


  05-Jul-2001 (M)

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