Lifelines

Lifelines begins as an over-the-top dysfunctional family farce, and ends as a credulity-straining melodrama. It opens like Desperate Living, but turns into Ordinary People midway through. Like the latter film, Lifelines features a family therapist of nearly superhuman compassion and understanding, played by Joe Morton. Morton is a pro, and he makes Dr. Livingston...read more

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Reviewed by Josh Ralske
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Lifelines begins as an over-the-top dysfunctional family farce, and ends as a credulity-straining melodrama. It opens like Desperate Living, but turns into Ordinary People midway through. Like the latter film, Lifelines features a family therapist of nearly superhuman compassion and understanding, played by Joe Morton. Morton is a pro, and he makes Dr. Livingston watchable and interesting, but not quite believable, particularly in light of the movie's unfortunately contrived surprise twist. Writer-director Rob Margolies has written an over-plotted gabfest, and he compounds the problem when he tries to ameliorate the staginess by opening things up with needlessly vertiginous camerawork, including swooping crane and helicopter shots that only detract from the sense of intimacy the drama should generate. That said, there are a few sublime moments in the film that suggest an estimable talent at work. There's a great shot early on in the film of Nancy (Jane Adams) waiting for a cup of coffee to brew that says more about the character and her emotional state than much of the heavy emoting that comes later. Strong, measured work from Adams and the rest of the cast certainly helps maintain audience interest, even as the tone shifts wildly and the plot is going off the rails. Adams and Josh Pais, who plays her husband, Ira, play against their natural low-key likeability, creating a prickly portrait of marital pain, while Robbie Sublett and Dreama Walker manage to find surprising depth in their stereotypical troubled teen characters. Little Jacob Kogan, who played the title role in the preteen sociopath thriller Joshua, strikes a similar note here with Spencer's precocious and creepy lack of affect. Thanks to the cast, and a few scattered moments of verbal and visual wit, Lifelines -- like the Bernstein family itself -- is at least an interesting mess.

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  • Released: 2008
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: Lifelines begins as an over-the-top dysfunctional family farce, and ends as a credulity-straining melodrama. It opens like Desperate Living, but turns into Ordinary People midway through. Like the latter film, Lifelines features a family therapist of nearl… (more)

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