Two New Movies Explore Rigors of Domestic Life

Two dramas analyzing the rigors of middle-aged domestic life open on South Florida screens Friday, with varying results.

Opening at the new Living Room Theaters at FAU, “Every Day” stars Liev Schreiber and Helen Hunt as

longtime partners whose marriage is on the rocks. For both parents, life is a cycle of oscillating crises involving their son, whose budding homosexuality sends the already overprotective Schreiber into a state of panic; and the arrival of Hunt’s wheelchair-bound father (Brian Dennehy, resurfacing as a jazz-loving codger with a death wish), whose forced exodus into their home causes incalculable stress.

Written and directed by “Nip-Tuck writer Richard Levine, “Every Day” falters when the plotting becomes too programmatic. Schreiber’s Ned, who works as a writer on a sleazy medical drama, is all too conveniently paired with the office temptress (Carla Gugino) for some late night “writing” sessions that lead inexorably to infidelity. But the film remains a generally astute observation of the day-to-day struggles of married life, most convincingly in the Dennehy passages. It’s the most unflattering portrait of old age since Rip Torn defecated himself in last year’s “Happy Tears.”

At any rate, it fares better than “The Other Woman,” starring the ubiquitous Natalie Portman and opening at

the Coral Gables Art Cinema. Portman’s Emilia Greenleaf has had a rough go of it in life; she’s viewed as a home-wrecker after her affair with now-husband Jack (Scott Cohen) broke up Jack’s previous marriage, and the baby she and Jack had together died shortly after birth in apparent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. The sorrow and guilt from these circumstances weigh her down every day, causing her rift with Jack’s 8-year-old son William (Charlie Tahan) to widen.

Writer-director Don Roos’ treatment of William damages the credibility of this initially sober melodrama. Our sympathies are with Emilia from the beginning, so there’s no reason to make William, a cruelly precocious boy with the self-awareness of an adult, such an insufferable prick. The film’s maudlin score does further damage to this increasingly treacly weepie – it’s unrelenting in its manipulative mawkishness. Still, the picture is almost completely redeemed by Lisa Kudrow, who, in a supporting role as Jack’s ex-wife, crackles with the perfect amount of venom and bitterness with her every appearance. The film may be trying too hard most of the time, but a moment toward the end between Kudrow and Portman earns your tears.