'Every Day'

Veers closer to highly condensed soap opera.

While “Every Day” purportedly celebrates the day-to-day epiphanies of ordinary people, it veers closer to highly condensed soap opera, as a stalwart husband (Liev Schreiber) juggles professional humiliations, his wife’s (Helen Hunt) meltdown, one son’s avowed homosexuality, another’s nagging self-doubt and a colleague’s sexy come-ons. Ace thesps struggle to lift this dour indie out of the doldrums, but writer-director Richard Levine (a TV vet making his feature debut) allows them no breathing room, taking their emotional temperature at every turn. Cable play is assured, but theatrical prospects seem iffy.

When Jeannie (Hunt) brings home her ailing, fault-finding father, Ernie (Brian Dennehy), her already high stress levels shoot through the roof. Jeannie monitors the crotchety invalid’s multiple appointments, as well as his incontinence and suicide attempts, while also running a household, raising two kids and keeping an (unspecified) business afloat. As a result, she’s embittered and altogether unavailable to her husband, Ned (Schreiber).

Ned, meanwhile, has hit his own rough patch in his job as a writer for sensationalistic TV skein “Mercy Medical.” His boss, Garrett (Eddie Izzard), insatiable in his quest for ratings, constantly rejects Ned’s storylines in favor of those of envelope-pushing newbie Brian (David Harbour). Garrett further insists Ned work with curvaceous, pleasure-seeking broadcast pro Robin (Carla Gugino), who lures him to her luxurious digs, complete with inspirational drugs, panoramic views of Gotham and a private swimming pool.

In general, the film’s depiction of behind-the-scenes screenwriting sessions — apparently informed by Levine’s experience producing, writing and directing “Nip/Tuck” — benefits greatly from Izzard’s dramatic volatility: He’s surprisingly effective here, the boss from hell one minute, and a wryly self-aware story supervisor the next.

Other actors fare worse, as Levine sprinkles joyless learning experiences throughout his claustrophobic domestic portrait, each earnest moment marking the characters’ progress (or lack thereof) on their journey toward right-thinking moderation and tolerance, reaffirming the family unit. Ned’s paranoid (perhaps homophobic) reaction to the sexual preference of teen son Jonah (a blessedly angst-free perf by Ezra Miller) is tempered when Jonah resists the kind of predator his father imagines lurking behind every bush. Young violin prodigy Ethan (a never-cutesy Skyler Fortgang) escapes imaginary fears by tending to his death-haunted grandfather.

Even the apparently irredeemable Ernie belatedly reveals a deep love of music, which suddenly makes him human if not quite lovable in his daughter’s eyes.

Strong production values surprise, considering the film’s brief shooting schedule and shoestring budget.

Every Day

Production

A Cold Iron Pictures presentation of an Ambush Entertainment production. (International sales: Myriad Pictures, Santa Monica.) Produced by Miranda Bailey, Matthew Leutwyler. Executive producer, Sam Hoffman. Co-producer, Amanda Marshall. Directed, written by Richard Levine.

Crew

Camera (color, HD), Nancy Schreiber; editor, Pam Wise; music, Jeanine Tesori; music supervisor, Albert Thrower; production designer, Adam Stockhausen; costume designer, Ane Crabtree; supervising sound editor, Gary J. Coppola; casting, Kerry Barden, Paul Schnee. Reviewed at Tribeca Film Festival (Encounters), April 26, 2010. (In Cannes Film Festival -- market.) Running time: 93 MIN.

With

Liev Schreiber, Helen Hunt, Carla Gugino, Eddie Izzard, Brian Dennehy, Ezra Miller, Skyler Fortgang, David Harbour.

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