Directed by Richard Levine
5/1, 7:30pm. Screening at Village East Cinema
(181 Second Ave. at 12th St.)
“Every Day” is the portrayal of Ned (Liev Schreiber) as he enters and fights the throes of a midlife crisis. On the surface, Ned seems to have it all. He and his wife Jeannie (Helen Hunt) have been happily married for 19 years and have two healthy sons. Ned is working as writer on a TV show, managing to keep his family well situated. Everything seems quite harmonious — except for work stress, his youngest son’s occasional anxiety attacks and the fact that his oldest is a teenager (well played by Ezra Miller) who has just emerged from the closet and is burning to explore his sexuality.
The drama unfolds when Jeannie decides to move her sick and freshly widowed father (Brian Dennehy) into their New York home.
Even if the relationship between father and daughter were a loving one, this development would have been a challenge. But in this particular case, it is intolerable from the start. The father’s list of endearing attributes includes the fact that he has been heavily “depressed since the 1950s,” battles alcoholism, proclaims to Jeannie that his having children was a mistake, and criticizes his wife for “crying too loud at her own son’s funeral.” As if that would not be enough to kick him out, he is also dying to kill himself. Facing her own demons that came with an unloved childhood, Jeannie takes care of her parent with sometimes incomprehensibly masochistic devotion, but also finds herself without much leftover attention for her increasingly needy husband.
Ultimately, it is his wife’s lacking emotional availability that sets Ned into a tailspin — and we subsequently see the essentially good guy set out on his own selfish journey. This begins with temptation and it manifests in the form of a cliché — his gorgeous, party-loving and altogether liberated co-worker (Carla Gugino). Both write for the same scandalous, semi-pornographic TV show. As their shock-obsessed boss (Eddie Izzard) increasingly puts pressure on Ned to deliver heftier material and assigns some late-night rewrites (which occur in his co-worker’s home and pool) the match is made; and Ned begins to neglect of his family obligations.
Despite all his shenanigans, director Richard Levine manages to keep the audience emotionally invested in Ned. We follow him on his chosen path and though many of his decisions are ill-advised, we somehow never stop rooting for him. Even when he wrongs his family, it is not to an unforgivable extent.
“Every Day” is the writing and directing debut of Levine, who also is a writer and producer for the plastic surgery mayhem show “Nip/Tuck.” It is a solid first film and without a doubt an enjoyable “slice of life” account. Levine’s formula for blending realism, dark humor, and irony is not unique but convincing. “Every Day” contains enough sincerity to feel realistic and enough entertaining twists to remind us that this is cinema. This film is in the vein of Noah Baumbach’s “The Squid and the Whale” (2005) or Tamara Jenkins’s “The Savages” (2007), where the audience gets to learn enough about the main characters’ interior life to feel with them turn by turn and event by event. No matter how different their stories, behaviors or decisions, these characters function as mirrors for our own belief system. These are also movies made for audiences in rich countries with “rich” problems. If your life is not marked by true tragedy or poverty, there is much to learn and to enjoy.