Comfortable and Furious

You Can Count on Me (2000)

You Can Count On Me is not the sort of film that you sit back and evaluate. The fact that it is brilliant is obvious. It’s the sort of film that should be used to evaluate you. If you don’t like it, it’s time for some self-examination. At least.

Consider the following review posted on

You can count me out, August 27, 2001
Reviewer: A viewer from Beaverton, OR United States

Incredible waste of time and talent. Laura Linney and Matthew Broderick were appealing, but other than that this was two hours of my life I’ll never get back. The many positive reviews of this movie have me baffled – basically it is a very long, mostly uninteresting examination of a brother-sister relationship. Quite frankly I could have cared less about their relationship toward the end of the movie. For a good relationship drama go with something more like Bridges of Madison County, Hope Floats, or The Mirror Has Two Faces. Steer clear of this one at all costs!

Translation-“No thanks, I only eat pabulum.” Only a person with no interest in or understanding of human beings could find this film slow. It’s as fucking true a film as you will ever see. Terry, the mildly self-destructive and aimless wanderer with firm convictions and Sammy, who depends on anchors, but does not accept confinement are two of cinema’s best characters this side of Robocop. They deal with the problems faced by thoughtful people in all walks of life and in all situations, mainly about how to live and finding a place in the world. Hope Floats!

How about this one?

OK Movie, World’s Worst Soundtrack Music!, September 30, 2001
Reviewer: David F. Nolan (see more about me) from Mission Viejo, CA United States

I’m giving this movie a one-star rating, even though the production and acting are pretty good, because I absolutely HATED the shrieky, screechy soundtrack music. It was so bad, I almost left the theater! If you can get past that, it’s not a bad movie — although not as good as many of the other reviewers here would have you believe.

I’ll admit, the soundtrack, by which I mean the Bach piece, made me think, which on rare occasions, can actually be a good thing. At first, the way the music is just kind of thrown up there might seem a bit clumsy, but you have to realize that the music accompanies certain events in the film. It isn’t meant to tell you what to think or feel, with you half realizing that it’s even there. Rather it’s placed upfront, as a suggestion. You hear the music and think about it, and think about how it might relate to the film. If the complaint is about the country music used in the film; that’s what the characters listen to. So what? It’s just regular country music. It’s not my cup of tea, but it isn’t there for my enjoyment. Arguably, the correlation between the lyrics and the events in the film is kind of silly, but that’s not such a big deal. It’s not like Aerosmith is playing through the whole film or something.

Here are the best of the bunch.

You Can Count On Me Not to Recommend This, August 21, 2001
Reviewer: mamalinde (see more about me) from A City With No Soul

A disjointed, unhappy, dark tale that moves with jerky indecision, and bizarre background music, to a anti-climax. Was the eternally greasy never-do-well bro any more sympathetic than the eternally perky, enabling, overprotective sis? My advice: don’t worry about it. –This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

You Can Count on Me to screw up my life – and yours too., July 23, 2001
Reviewer: kodakmoment from OHIO, USA

The final scene is reminiscent of the closing scene in “Grapes of Wrath” where truly noble family members must say good bye. But instead of feeling admiration for the struggles Sammy and Terry carry on, my only thought was “These people are living the very lives they deserve.”
Don’t waste your money on this one. Don’t even rent it. Instead, perhaps you could read a good book to your child, or take your spouse out for ice cream. You’ll find that a much more rewarding use of your time.

This last reviewer “deserves” a fate involving a two-liter bottle of Coke, his or her rectum and no lube. Judgmental motherfucker. They probably think of themselves as a “compassionate conservative.” It is exactly Terry and Sammy’s refusal to follow the straight and narrow and their flaws that make them interesting. The idea that we should despise them and withhold sympathy because they don’t act like the Cleavers pretty much speaks for itself.

People like this are the reason most movies fall short of what they could be. Studio execs know that the world is populated by airheads who only want to see movies about likeable, i.e. saintly characters. They want “Rainbow Bright,” marketed to adults. Yes Jerry Bruckheimer fucks pigs, but the public are, the pigs. It’s the same reason most politicians are either phony our vacuous. The majority of people want likable characters, so we wind up with the cast of “Little House on the Prairie” running the country.

Here are a couple of life lessons I’d picked up by about the fourth grade or so. If everything was nice and pretty and sunshiny all the time, life would be boring. People do bad things. The same people do good things. That makes them interesting. The fact that it operates with these lessons in mind is part of what makes “You Can Count on Me” one of the best films of 2000 and DVDs of 2001 and the winner of a Ruthie.

These yokels are joined, amazingly enough, by handful critics. Amy Taubin of The Village Voice actually outdoes them. Here are two of her big complaints.

You Can Count on Me is set in Scottsboro, a small town in upstate New York so generic and underpopulated that the film could have been shot on a studio back lot.


It’s not just the invocation of faith and family that marks You Can Count on Me as a conservative film. Its gender politics are thoroughly retrograde. When the inexperienced new manager imposes his absurd rules on the women in his office, they don’t even get together to strategize, let alone confront him outright. Not just aesthetically unadventurous, You Can Count on Me is, in every way, a throwback to the Eisenhower age.

Have you stopped laughing? No, me either. Let’s take a moment. Alright, I’ll proceed. Well, part of the point of harping on these reviewers is to illustrate why You Can Count on Me is so good, and though Taubin’s criticisms have virtually nothing to do with that  because they are so off the wall, I thought I’d toss them in anyway. I mean, the town could have been a set? Not with the surrounding wilderness, but suppose it could have been. So what? I mean, last time I checked, the reason sets exist is because people film movies on them.

An apparently pernicious “invocation of faith and family?” Because one of the characters is religious? Because the minister is thoughtful? Because the main characters’ family is important to them? Because the boy in the film wants a male role model? Fuck, it sounds like the script was written by Pat Robertson, doesn’t it? And the gender politics are retrograde because why? Sammy confronts the boss repeatedly and ultimately gets him to back down. The other employees, some of whom are male, are peripheral characters. It’s laughable to say that there should have been a scene where all of the women in the office, but not the men, got together and confronted the boss as a group. That’s not what the film is about. It’s like saying the Storm Troopers should have unionized. Ultimately, this is just the “I’ve read Catherine MacKinnon” version of the person who wants “likable” characters, except it also grossly misinterprets the film. If you judge art by the extent to which it conforms to your moral/political/feelgood agenda, you are missing the fucking point.

Let’s see, what else? Well, Kenneth Longeran is does a nice job with his role as the preacher. He should act more. Mark Rufalo is amazing and is going to be a major actor, but everybody already knows that. Laura Linny is perfect as far as I can tell and everybody already knows that too. Buy three copies of this movie so they make more like it.

DVD Extras

The commentary on the disc talks about the primary theme of the film, which is parent lessness. The protagonists, of course, are bereft of their parents at an early age but this is a pronounced version of what we all face as we grow older, as the mysticism surrounding parents and adults evaporates and we realize that they are all “just kids who grew up.” We find that we don’t know what to do. We can turn to religion and stability. We can face the void. But we never achieve the certainty we had attributed to adults when we were kids. It sounds depressing, but in reality watching these characters struggle through these problems and realizing that in all likelihood, as Terry says, “nothing too bad” will happen to them and that they still have a lot to love and enjoy in life couldn’t be more comforting. That’s why the pot on the porch scene is one of my favorites ever. So, I guess it’s a feel-good film after all. But it makes you feel better about the real world, instead of magic time pony land, where so many other films are set.

The commentary and featurette are very good because they offer the insight above, as well as some others. Longeran spends some time talking about his ideas on drama and that’s good too. But for the most part, the content of this film speaks for itself. It isn’t like, say, Last Temptation of Christ, where there are enough issues to fill hours, days or years of discussion. After about an hour I got the picture and turned it off, but I was glad to have listened to what I did.

Ruthless Ratings:

  • Film Overall: 10
  • Acting: 10
  • Direction: 8
  • Story: 10
  • Rewatchability: 10 (I watched it three times in a couple of weeks)