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Every Day

TedFlicks Rating: ★★★★☆

$11.00 ticket on a scale of $0 to $13.50

REPEAT, DOROTHY…THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE HOME…

Richard Levine, who wrote and directed “Every Day,” which goes into limited release in New York and Los Angeles on 14 January 2011, is a TV director.  “Every Day” is his first feature film.  It shows.  And that is not a bad thing.  There is an economy of storytelling dictated by TV’s time-constrained formats that imposes a discipline which more feature film directors would do well to observe.  At 93 minutes no one can accuse Levine of self-indulgence.

Plot centers on Liev Schreiber’s Ned, a writer for a cable TV show based at Brooklyn’s Steiner Studios.  Give Levine credit for not straying far from the milieu that he knows.  He has been at one time or another a writer and executive producer on cable TV’s “Nip Tuck” and “Scoundrels.”

Ned is supervised by executive producer Garrett (Eddie Izzard), a middle-aged gay man involved in his longest relationship to date, and an addict for shock value in scripts.  Garrett hands out insults like Santa Claus would if he were noted Friar Don Rickles.  Garrett’s problem with Ned is that his scripts are not sufficiently shocking.  Izzard plays the part appropriately over-the-top with all the gestures, mannerisms, and egotism that one expects from a caricature of one in his position.  Garrett is gay, which only matters in the sense that it ties up a loose end with Ned at pic’s end.

Ned is married to Jeanine (Helen Hunt) in the best casting your critic has seen since she played Murray Slaughter’s daughter in “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.”  She is the remarkably un-neurotic daughter of the extraordinarily crabby and depressed Ernie (Brian Dennehy), a partial invalid and presumed World War Two veteran whom she brings home to suburban New York from Detroit to spend his last days.  The couple have two kids, Ethan (Skyler Fortgang) a child actor of some charm, and Jonah (Ezra Miller) an impossibly pretty 15-year-old who came out as gay to his parents six months earlier.

A casting note:  Miller as Jonah is almost stereotypically pretty as the gay teenage boy.  Unfortunately, he bears no plausible family resemblance either to Hunt or Schreiber.  Maybe Levine went a tad far here.

That said, as actors the entire cast are spot-on, especially Dennehy, who brings an amazing degree of nuance to a part that is written as caricature.

The story is told in linear time, much like a TV program.  Five subplots are interwoven almost seamlessly:  Ned’s job problems — for which Garrett’s solution is that he should collaborate with Robin, played by the extraordinarily hot Carla Gugino as Garrett’s veteran associate and a woman who lives entirely in the moment — here, pic takes brief leave of reality — Robin’s Manhattan apartment would be lavish for Donald Trump — not even successful TV writers can afford it;  Jonah’s gayness, with which dad has a problem, and his horniness (he’s 15, remember?), which leaves him prey to a date-rape-drug wielding pedophile;  Ernie’s extraordinary disdain for everyone close to him, which in the final reel is revealed as what one expects, a defense mechanism;  little Ethan’s attempt to conquer the violin, and his precocious take on what his elders are up to; and Robin’s thing for Ned, which plays out as a sort of knockoff of the dream sequences in “The Seven Year Itch.”

The subplots are resolved in a sort of “Father Knows Best” denouement.  It’s not exactly a Hayes Office ending, but if the Hayes Office existed today, it would probably get its imprimatur.  Think of Judy Garland repeating the mantra told to her by Billie Burke in the final reel of The Wizard of Oz.

There is one dangling participle.  It’s the upshot of the Robin-Ned encounters.  Ned initially parries her romantic thrusts as they work on a script in her apartment.  He only spends two nights working with her, but on the second she nails him — in the pool — only to have her crazy ex-boyfriend show up while Ned is nailing her in the warm water.  Ned gets a shiner, which Jeanine notices in mid family crisis (Ernie has been taken to hospital by ambulance, and Jonah is nowhere to be found — on a date in a gay nightclub with the pedophile).  She asks about it but does not pursue it.  If she did, it would probably have added 20 minutes to the pic — so we can forgive the loose end.  Economy wins out.  Levine ties it up like a television episode.

Pic benefits from one wonderful touch.  Ernie is hung up on big band jazz.  In his dreams he imagines himself the drummer in the Count Basie Orchestra.  One could do a lot worse for a soundtrack.  In a way, Dennehy’s character is pic’s sole paradox.  He is remote, crabby, self-indulgent, hardly a success, but he’s extraordinarily literate both in word and music, a sort of Renaissance Man at the end of life that never achieved its potential.

“Every Day” functions on four levels:  Feel-good movie, domestic comedy; family drama, and send-up of the TV business (In this regard it is hardly My Favorite Year but that is not to be held against it).  The last may be pic’s cheapest shot, but who is to say that TV does not deserve it?

Tech credits are excellent.  Lensing by Nancy Schreiber is workmanlike and not flashy.  Pam Wise cut the pic with a cold machete.  Sound recording is more than up to par, and in case someone missed it, the soundtrack is among film’s best.

“Every Day” is rated “R” for language and sexual situations.  Perhaps children may not understand parts of it.  But none of it is offensive in any way.

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Every Day on Netflix

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