30 March 2000 | DrCarol
an engaging and under-appreciated film
"You Can Thank Me Later" is not an easy film to describe. Very little actually happens--a mother and her adult children gather in a hospital room to await the outcome of their father's operation, interact with each other, step momentarily into their own private lives, and return to the hospital room--all interspersed with black-and-white flashbacks of the characters' visits to their respective therapists. (The mother, played all too convincingly by Ellen Burstyn, is the exception: she views herself as normal when she is in fact the chief cause of her children's varied neuroses.) What makes the film worth watching is not the plot but the interplay between the characters--the lecherous older brother, Edward (Mark Blum), the gentle and indecisive younger brother, Eli (Ted Levine), and their pathetic waif of a sister, Susan (Amanda Plummer). It's difficult to find much sympathy for the smarmy and arrogant Edward, but decent, patient Eli clearly deserves better than he has received from either fate or his family. Ted Levine, who recently starred as the intense and passionate Starbuck in USA Network's "Moby Dick," shows an entirely different side of himself here, conveying veiled emotions through subtle changes of expression and an uncanny sense of timing that makes even the simple line "Burger King" memorable. There are elements of mystery as well, mostly provided by Genevieve Bujold as the father's former mistress disguised as a nun.
"You Can Thank Me Later" is not for viewers who crave action, though there's a surprising amount of tastefully filmed sex. But thoughtful viewers with a taste for character-driven scripts will appreciate the light irony and the fine acting in this under-appreciated Canadian film.