You Can Count on Me



Jurassic Mark

SCORE: 4 Stars

Growing up, I always got a kick out of my Uncles. My Uncles were less inhibited than my parents. In fact, they didn't seem like my parents at all. They told great stories. Uncles were authority figures who brazenly smoked cigarettes. They told the occasional dirty joke. When I looked at my Uncles I had a more realistic model for adulthood than my sanctimonious parents.

In 1992, I became an Uncle. For me it's great because I get to do all the fun things that Dads get to do, but I can pick up and leave anytime I want. I can't speak for my Nephew, but he probably likes me because I always take the time to play catch; and I'm not a disciplinarian. It's almost as if he expects me to be roguish, and I'm all too happy to play the role.

One of the sad things about being a Nephew is when you grow up and your Uncles are just regular adults like you. I don't know yet if it's sad for the Uncle too.

All of these things are things I thought about after watching You Can Count on Me (the best film of 2000). You Can Count on me is a story about a sister and brother whose parents died in a car wreck when they were young. Samantha and Terry formed a powerful bond growing up. We don't see them grow up, but throughout the movie we are haunted by an image of them sitting together at their parent's funeral.

Flash forward to their adult lives. Samantha (Laura Linney) is a single mom. Terry (Mark Ruffalo) is a misfit and a drifter. Terry needs money, and turns to his older sister for help. Events unfold and Terry ends up staying at Samantha's house indefinitely. Terry and his Nephew Rudy (Rory Culkin) take an instant liking to each other. One of the running jokes in the movie is that on an emotional and maturity level, Terry and Rudy aren't that far apart. But, Terry never talks down to Rudy. Rudy is glad that he has someone macho around who can take him to pool halls, and teach him to build things. Rudy never knew his father.

Meanwhile, Samantha tries to control Terry. She thinks his life is going nowhere and she goes so far as to enlist a Priest to try and help. Naturally, Terry resents this and we begin to see the pattern that forms the relationship between the siblings.

You Can Count on Me wisely stops short of making Terry the black sheep. We learn that Samantha has her indiscretions as well. She is having an affair with her boss (Matthew Broderick), and she's stringing along another guy. She is unsure about Terry's influence on her son, but she conveniently uses Terry as a babysitter while she's out cheating. Terry is aware of her affair and it almost manages to level the moral playing field.

You Can Count on Me is the best movie about a family since 1997's The Ice Storm (directed by Ang Lee). The Ice Storm was my number two movie that year. Ironically, You Can Count on Me supplants Ang Lee's masterpiece Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon for contention as my number one film of 2000.