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Amid the general swirl of unreal, hyped and obnoxious subject matter considered for shooting these days, you have to applaud filmmakers that choose to look at ordinary lives and ordinary problems that any of us might encounter. Given but a brief theatrical trial, Every Day broaches issues that are becoming more and more common -- parents dealing with a family member's sexual orientation, and trying to do right by an elderly parent who can no longer care for himself. Better yet, Every Day's intention is not to criticize the family unit or society in general. The family in question isn't a dysfunctional mess, with people screaming at each other or engaging in destructive behavior. Nobody wants out, even when the going gets tough. But that doesn't mean that coping with the day-to-day problems is easy.
Jeannie (Helen Hunt of As Good As It Gets) has given up trying to deal with her father's serious health issues from afar, but moving him into the house causes nothing but trouble. Already a bitter malcontent before his debilitating condition, the uncooperative Ernie (Brian Dennehy) complains loudly and criticizes his daughter with hurtful remarks: "I never should have had children." Ernie is only happy when listening to music, and remembering/fantasizing his time as a drummer. Jeannie has already given up her clients to care for Ernie and now finds that she can't handle his complicated schedule of doctor visits, dealing with his contradictory prescriptions, etc. She looks to her husband Ned (Liev Schreiber of Taking Woodstock and RKO 281) for support and help. Ned is going through a bad patch at his job as a television writer, dealing with a demanding and infantile boss. The insecure show creator Garrett (Eddie Izzard) changes his mind five times a day and expects his writers to coddle his creative tantrums. With his deadlines constantly redrawn, Ned misses commitments at home and with his kids, making Jeannie feel all the more embattled and alone.
Ned and Jeannie must contend with another issue. Their fifteen year-old son Jonah (Ezra Miller) is gay, and neither parent is certain how to deal with his desire to go dating. Jeannie encourages Jonah to attend a gay-lesbian college dance, but Ned is concerned that the inexperienced boy will meet men ten years his senior. Sensing a restrictive net closing around him, Jonah uses the confusion at home to sneak out with an older guy, to a gay club.
Ned is feeling estranged from his harried wife just as his co-writer Robin ( Carla Gugino of The Lookout, Watchmen, Sucker Punch) invites him to rework a troublesome script at her bachelorette pad. When the arrangement proves to be a setup for a seduction, Ned finds himself challenging his core values.
Every Day gets a solid B+ for honesty and scores much higher for its performances. Helen Hunt is extremely effective as a woman under heavy stress, feeling pangs of betrayal and wondering how bad things can get. Old Ernie is a rebellious, ungrateful and disgustingly incontinent old poop, and trying to maintain civility around the house is difficult when one is both exhausted and upset. The younger son Ethan (Skyler Fortgang) observes everything. He concludes that his distracted mom is the problem -- she seems to be the one who keeps burning the dinners, etc.
Liev Schreiber is very good at staying calm and trying to be helpful, although he does have some pain-in-the-tail habits, like continuing to talk to Jeannie even as she's taking an emergency phone call. Although he sympathizes with his wife and is extremely tolerant of Ernie's outrageous behavior, Ned gets irked when Jeannie is willing to let Jonah go to a dance looking like a teen slut.
Brian Dennehy's old Ernie is falling apart in body but remains sharp of mind, which makes him an extremely sour companion. Ernie sometimes doesn't look sick or feeble enough, but I only have my personal experience to go by and anything is possible. When left alone Ernie is capable of all kinds of trouble. He breaks into the booze cabinet and gets smashed; when his daughter returns she has a couple of hours of appalling cleanup to perform. Ernie also isn't above conning little Ethan into bringing him "those white pills from atop the refrigerator" ... lots of pills.
Every Day weakens somewhat at Ned's work. His work situation is altogether credible, as writer-director Richard Levine has a long career as a producer of TV shows. The show Ned works on sounds like an exaggerated version of Nip/Tuck, a fairly exploitative skin, sex and plastic surgery soap opera. Ned's obnoxiously egotistical and domineering supervisor Garrett runs creative meetings as free-association opportunities to spout his outrageously offensive opinions. His only show criterion is that each episode has a certain number of sexually shocking moments. Ned feels humiliated writing this way and his home front difficulties make it even more difficult to take Garrett's abuse cheerfully. Unfortunately, when the frankly irresistible Robin takes Ned home to her swanky love nest, we get the feeling that someone is trying to make Every Day more interesting by cramming a sexually shocking Garrett moment into the mix.
Actually, making Ned a TV writer on a hot oversexed show works against Every Day's best interests. I've known TV writers and if they're successful the way Ned seems to be they make a LOT of money. Thus we wonder why Jeannie can't hire a live-in nurse or other help to make home life more survivable. Perhaps I missed a scene where we find out that Ned hasn't been steadily employed, but that's not what it looks like. The money is so good that TV writers come to work on uppers to make sure their enthusiasm around the boss doesn't flag for a moment. One TV writer friend told me that the pay was "life-changing money". This was just before he hit it big and suddenly became unreachable. 1
In interviews included on the disc Mr. Levine (who seems like a very nice guy) tells us that Every Day is based on his personal experience with a father-in-law moving in. As the social and financial situation of a successful TV producer isn't really comparable to that of an average wage earner, it's to Every Day's credit that it still seems believable. We social security-busting boomers are presently dealing with the problems of aging parents who will need personal care, and the way the economy is going a great many of us are going to have to make sacrifices to do the right thing by them. Push Every Day's extramarital sex subplot aside and the show is a brave dramatization of what will soon become an American norm -- three and four generations under one roof, working out their problems.
Image Entertainment's Blu-ray of Every Day is a handsome encoding of a film said to be shot on the Red One camera system. Action and colors are pleasing and natural.
The show comes with a selection of cast interviews taken for potential EPK use, a trailer and a number of deleted scenes in offline resolution quality. Every Day has an amiable cast and an intelligent and thoughtful story idea, and is well worth a look-see. I have a feeling that far too many American housewives operate in the same barely controlled panic mode as the un-glamorous character played by Helen Hunt, and it's about time that films reflected that.
On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor,
Every Day Blu-ray rates:
1. Perhaps my point of reference is out of date, but SAG contracts haven't changed. Could Ned be working for some obscure (but pornographically cutting-edge) TV show for cable that doesn't pay big bucks? My friends worked for syndicated comedy variety shows and Network dramas, and when the money started rolling in their first concern was to get a tax manager to keep the government from taking 60%.
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T'was Ever Thus.