The interweave of ordinary lives in a wintry Northeastern small town has a number of attractions in it, starting with the clear bright wide-screen image, letting in a lot of décor and townscape, albeit much of it self-satirically quaint and cornball. Kate Beckinsale shows off, not for the first time, her impeccable American accent, and appears to have cut back on the collagen now that she’s not hunting werewolves in a black leather bodysuit. And the slowly warming relationship between two tentative teens, a trombonist in the high-school marching band (Michael Angarano) and a bespectacled amateur photographer (Olivia Thirlby), gives us a rooting interest in an otherwise tawdry tapestry of broken marriages, infidelity, betrayal, jealousy, vengeance. Two off-screen gunshots at the outset, prior to a flashback to “weeks earlier,” in effect echo over the entire length of the film, helping slightly to spice up the banality and leaven the boredom, as we work our way back to the starting point. Sam Rockwell, the man behind the introductory gunshots, is something of a grandstander, chewing every stick and sliver of scenery, reeking self-consciousness, while delivering his lines with roughly the sincerity of an Owen Wilson, and leaving a deafening lull whenever he’s off screen. Admittedly, he’s playing a failed suicide, a fitful Bible-thumper, and a sloppy drunk, unhappy over his visitation rights with his daughter, combative with his ex-wife’s new married beau, who meets him more than halfway: “I’ll suck you right up my tailpipe, bro.” But then again, Sam Rockwell tends to act like that no matter what the role. And director David Gordon Green (George Washington, Undertow, All the Real Girls) gladly obliges him. Indulges him. (2008) — Duncan Shepherd
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