Live by Night
The key question behind Live by Night isn’t so much “Why did they bother?” as “What went wrong?”
Jack and Edith, who are married to other people, are seized with the need to have sex right then and there, in the middle of the night, in Edith's living room. But what about her husband, Hank? If he wakes up, she says, "he'll go to the bathroom first; we'll hear him." That kind of domestic detail compounds the betrayal, taking advantage of her husband's humanity at just that moment when the last thing they should be doing is listening for poor Hank to flush the toilet.
"We Don't Live Here Anymore" is set in the shabby moral surroundings of two couples who know each other too well, and themselves not well enough. Jack Linden (Mark Ruffalo) and Hank Evans (Peter Krause) are professors on a small campus in Oregon; Jack is married to Terry (Laura Dern) and Hank to Edith (Naomi Watts). One night at a party Jack finds that the beer supply has run low and says he'll go get some more. Edith says she'll go along for the ride. Later that night Terry asks her husband if it isn't time for Jack to stop going off with Edith on their phony little missions and leaving her behind with Hank.
Jack plays innocent, but fairly early in the film it's clear that both couples (and eventually their children) have a pretty good idea of what's going on. "We Don't Live Here Anymore" isn't about shocking discoveries and revelations, but about four people who move with varying degrees of eagerness toward, and then away from, the kinds of sexual cheating they may have read about in the pages of John Cheever, Philip Roth or John Updike -- whose characters are too sophisticated to be surprised by adultery, but not very good at it.
The movie, directed by John Curran and written by Larry Gross, is based on two stories by Andre Dubus. As with "In the Bedroom" (2001), also based on the work of Dubus, it listens carefully to what couples say in the privacy of their own long knowledge of themselves. What we hear this time is that Jack thinks Terry drinks too much, and Terry agrees. But Jack isn't cheating with Edith because his wife is a drunk; he's cheating because he wants to, because he and Edith have fallen into a season of lust. Hank, meanwhile, is not particularly alarmed by his cheating wife, because he's a serial cheater himself. His philosophy, explained to Jack: Sure, you should love your wife and kids, but it's OK to fool around sometimes "just because it feels good."