Lifelines Suburban Dysfunction Proves Disastrous


The poster for Lifelines slavishly imitates the Daniel Clowes drawing used for Happiness, accurately telegraphing its tabloid-level density of dysfunction (maybe not the wisest marketing move, given Todd Solondz’s bankrupt rep). Though both films feature punching-bag favorite Jane Adams, tyro filmmaker Rob Margolies at least aims for redemption rather than post-p.c. button-pushing in this taxing foray into psychopathological bookkeeping. A Saturday pile-on of therapy sessions for the Bernstein family provides the bleeding heart of the film as well as its numbing formula of root causes for its characters’ mental makeup. Dad (Josh Pais) shuffles out of the closet, teen Meghan (Dreama Walker) verbally disembowels Mom (Adams) whenever possible, and stuttering eldest Michael (Robbie Sublett) recounts witnessing his smart-mouthed kid brother, Spencer (Jacob Kogan, a/k/a Joshua), endure the sine qua non experience of suburban-set indies. Despite the switch-off response that this litany may trigger, Pais and Sublett do wrestle down a couple of the impossible-to-deliver monologues, and there’s something to the flat, even bored exhaustion behind the traumas. But in addition to the opaque mother character (whose individual session with overwhelmed shrink Joe Morton goes unseen), the film’s befuddling direction and tone, queasy HD interiors, and tin-eared, often preposterous, screenplay prove disastrous.