Dave's Rating:

2.0

… obvious, shallow, hand-wringing …

Who's in It: Joaquin Phoenix, Jennifer Connelly, Mark Ruffalo, Mira Sorvino, Elle Fanning

The Basics: The suburbs, especially the upscale educated ones where the autumn leaves artfully whoosh past you, are notorious for people doing really despicable things to each other and then feeling entitled to get away with it. It's why Lizzie Grubman can run over people with her SUV in the Hamptons and her reward is her own reality series. And speaking of running people over with an SUV …

What's the Deal? At least once an Oscar season, American moviegoers are treated to at least a few movies that dig into the dark underside of upper-middle-class white people, like it's some kind of monstrously original revelation that not all is so perfect behind those well-appointed windows. And this is just the kind of obvious, shallow, hand-wringing, by-the-numbers, heart-wrenching movie that has the potential to get nominated for lots of Academy Awards.

Even Worse, It's One of Those "If Only" Stories: In other words, this is the kind of movie that relies on all the characters not saying the thing that needs to be said no matter how many opportunities those characters get to do so. Instead, the crazily coincidental connections remain simply that and no one ever says the odd, stray word that would tip off a single other person to the fact that blah, blah, the big secret is right in front of everybody's faces, blah.

Worth Seeing For: The one big dramatic moment when Connelly and Phoenix are fighting for their marriage, and they spend a good five to ten seconds of screen time actually yelling and screaming over each other's lines (and that might not seem like much when you just read about it here, but to actually watch it happen turns it into a comedy sketch). Anyway, you understand not a single thing that either one of them has just said, even though they're supposed to be saying the most important, heartfelt, anguished stuff right then. Pretty awesome TiVo moment for when it comes to cable.

Child-Actor Typecasting: Elle, younger sister of Dakota, has really started following in her serious sibling's footsteps. They're both fine young actors, but it's starting to feel weird when you see a downbeat movie that calls for a kid's role, and you automatically think, Oh, which Fanning did they get?

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