I don't know if you've heard, but sometimes, happy suburban families are not happy. Sometimes, happy families are very, very unhappy, because sometimes it's the '70s, and sometimes the dad cheats on the mom a lot, and then the dad wants to live in an ugly modern house, and the mom never wanted to move to Long Island in the first place, and then Timothy Hutton gets Lyme disease and everything goes to shit. This is what we, in sarcastic circles, call a "newsflash."

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Lymelife concerns one such unhappy suburban family: most compellingly, the younger son, Scott (Rory Culkin), who's in love/lust with the girl next door (Emma Roberts) and struggling with the realization that his parents don't love each other anymore, and, least compellingly, the stupid parents (Jill Hennessy, great, and Alec Baldwin, impossible to separate from Jack Donaghy), who make their money manufacturing happiness in the form of housing developments ("the American dream, right here on Long Island!") but, you know, don't love each other anymore. Scott shuffles timidly toward manhood (the day of his confirmation ceremony marks a heavy-handed and literal climax), squishing quarters on the train tracks, aping Han Solo in the mirror, and idolizing his cynical older brother (Keiran Culkin), who's about to ship out to the Falkland Islands. "Welcome to our wonderful little family and our perfect little suburban life," says cynical older brother. Ow, Middle Culkin! My head hurts where you BLUDGEONED ME TO DEATH WITH YOUR POINT.

The groaning plot is relieved somewhat by the almost-supernatural specter of Lyme disease, at the time a little-understood neurological nightmare lurking behind every blade of grass. Hutton is fantastic as girl-next-door's infected father, slowly and sweatily disintegrating in the corner of his basement while neighbors whisper that his condition is "psychosomatic." But the kids are what really hold the film together (those Culkins know what they're doing), making this story that you've heard a thousand times into something sweet and a little strange. recommended