Acclaimed playwright Kenneth Lonergan’s You Can Count on Me is one of the most highly praised independent films of recent years, earning many of the major screenplay awards.
This is the lovingly drawn story of a sister and brother’s complicated, fragile, but somehow enduring bond. Sammy and Terry Prescott were orphaned as children. Sammy, now the single mother of a young son, has stayed in their hometown and is an officer at the local bank. Terry has become something of a drifter, surfacing only when he needs money. Sammy’s own life has its complications: she puts off an old boyfriend’s proposal and begins an affair with her new boss. Together in their family home, Terry’s charming irresponsibility collides with Sammy’s confusion over her own actions. What remains unspoken is what they’ve known since they were left with only each other sixteen years before.
|Publisher:||Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.20(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.40(d)|
About the Author
Kenneth Lonergan’s plays include This Is Our Youth and Lobby Hero. He wrote the original screenplay for Analyze This. You Can Count On Me marked his directorial debut. He lives in New York City.
Read an Excerpt
fade in: int./ext. a car (moving). night.
The shifting lights from the odd passing car play over the faces of mr. and mrs. prescott, a pleasant-looking couple in their late thirties, dressed up for a night out. Mr. Prescott drives them along a dark hilly two-lane highway.
Why do they always put braces on teenage girls at the exact moment when they're the most self-conscious about their appearance?
I don't know.
up ahead, near the top of the oncoming hill, a red pickup truck is poking its nose out of the short exit lane.
I see him . . .
The pickup lurches into the road, with not nearly enough time to spare.
mrs. prescottmr. prescott
Mr. Prescott swerves over the double solid white line and clears the truck as-
Another pair of headlights from an oncoming truck rises up over the hill directly in front of them-
mrs. prescott (Screams)
Mr. Prescott's foot stomps on the brake. We black out and there is the sound of a terrible crash.
ext. the prescotts' front door. night.
The shadow of a big man looms up onto the front door. A big finger rings the bell.
amy, a thirteen-year-old baby-sitter with braces, opens the door and looks up. In the b.g. we see two children, sammy (Samantha) and terry prescott, in their pajamas, lying on their stomachs in the living room, watching television. Sammy is eleven. Terry is eight.
reverse: darryl, the sheriff, a portly fellow with glasses and a mustache, looks down at amy.
Amy, would you please tell the kids you'll be right back, and then shut the door and come outside to talk to us for a minute?
OK. (To kids) Be right back, you guys!
You're not supposed to go out, Amy.
She's going to smoke a cigarette.
amy closes the door and looks expectantly up at Darryl. Darryl doesn't know how to start.
ext. church. day.
credits begin over a blustery April day. The steeple of the little white church stands out against the sharp blue sky.
int. town church. day.
It's a small church and a small congregation, but it's full. There's a choir of mostly senior citizens arrayed in the back. two closed caskets are laid out in front of the minister, a fiftyish woman with thick glasses and salt-and-pepper hair, who is giving a eulogy mos.
Among the mourners in the second row sit Terry and Sammy, both red-eyed, and uncomfortable in their dress-up clothes. Their Aunt Ruth, a pinch-faced woman in her forties, sits next to them.
Sammy and Terry are holding hands tightly. Terry wipes his eyes with his free hand.
The Minister addresses her remarks to the children. Sammy is hanging on the Minister's every word; Terry is shifting his eyes and his seat as if it will kill him to sit still another minute.
ext. scottsville cemetery. sixteen years later. day.
On the beautiful hill overlooking the beautiful windy green country, sammy, twenty-seven years old now, puts flowers on her parents' graves with quick, practiced movements.
She is a nice-looking young woman of a neat appearance, saved from primness by an elusive, pleasantly flustered quality. An unsuccessfully neat person. She is dressed in office clothes-white blouse, dark skirt, high heels, light raincoat over everything. She picks out a couple of weeds and then bows her head and closes her eyes.
ext. scottsville-main street. day.
Scottsville is a small town. Main Street. Run-down old stores next to a new bank, a couple of chain stores, a few restaurants of varying ambitions. Civil War statue. World War I statue. World War II statue. Residential streets wandering away from Main Street up and down hills. You know there's a minimall somewhere nearby. A fair amount of activity during the daytime.
sammy's car pulls up across the street from where an eight-year-old boy in a secondhand baseball jacket and a school knapsack is waiting at the curb. This is her son, rudy. sammy calls out the car window.
Rudy, come on! I'm really late!
Rudy hurries across the street and gets in the car, slinging his knapsack into the backseat.
int. the car (moving). day.
How was school?
Why do you say that?
We're supposed to write a story for English homework, but they didn't tell us what it's supposed to be about.
What do you mean?
I mean they didn't tell us what it's supposed to be about. They said do whatever you want.
So what's wrong with that?
Nothing. I just think it's unstructured.
Well, I'm sure you'll be able to think of something. If you can't, I'll help you.
int./ext. car/carol's house. day.
Sammy stops the car outside a heavily thicketed driveway (carol's house), and rudy gets out.
Don't forget your backpack.
Rudy returns to take his knapsack out of the back.
It's not a backpack, it's a knapsack.
Don't forget your knapsack.
Rudy hoists his knapsack out of the back.
Give me a kiss.
Rudy gives her a kiss and puts his arms around her and squeezes her neck.
He withdraws, slams the door. As Sammy drives away, he slogs up the long twisting driveway.
ext. merchants national trust-parking lot. day.
Sammy gets out of her car, which is parked in one of the half dozen spaces in the little parking lot allocated for bank employees.
She hurries toward the employees' entrance, fixing her skirt as she goes.
int. merchants national trust. day.
Sammy hurries down the clean hallway in the back past mabel, a pleasant-faced fellow employee.
Guess who's been asking for you?
Oh no, really?
Mabel nods and passes by.
sammy knocks on a big door that says "Manager" and has half the letters of the previous branch manager's name taken off it.
Yeah, come in!
Sammy swings open the door. brian everett, the new branch manager, is unpacking a box. Sammy is surprised to see he is in his early thirties and very good-looking in a boyish sort of way; he wears shirtsleeves and tie, and a wedding ring.
Brian. Hi. I'm Samantha Prescott-I'm the lending officer?
Yeah, hi, how are you? Come on in. Sit down.
Sammy comes into the office and sits.
I am so sorry I was late . . .
Yeah, we missed you before . . .
I got held up. Believe me, it is not something I make a habit of . . .
I'm sure it's not. Actually-could you just, could you close that door for me? Thanks.
Sammy gets up and closes the door.
int. brian's office. later.
Sammy sits in front of Brian's desk. Brian is behind the desk listening.
-so I always just run out at 3:15 to pick him up and then run him real quick over to the sitter's house. Anyway, Larry never minded about it and I was just hoping it would be OK with you too . . .
Well-Samantha-I realize that Scottsville is not exactly a major banking center . . .
No it's not . . .
No-I know it's not. . . . But it's kind of a personal challenge to me to see what we can do to bring local service up to the same kinds of standards we'd be trying to meet if we were the biggest branch in the state. And that means I don't want anybody running out at 3:15 or 3:30, or whenever the bus happens to come in that day. Now is there anybody else who can pick your son up after school? Does your husband work in the area? Do you-
Oh-No-Rudy Sr. isn't "on the scene." So to speak.
Well, I can give you a couple of days to make some other arrangement, but . . .
Well-Brian? I understand what you're saying, and I think it's great. I do. Because there's a lot of things around here that could use some attention. Believe me. But I've honestly been meeting that bus every day for four years now and it really does take just fifteen minutes, and if I take the time out of my lunch hour . . .
I'd really prefer it if you would make some other arrangement. OK?
I'll do my best . . . !
Brian kicks back in his chair and puts his hands behind his head.
How old's your son?
That's a terrific age.
int. sammy's car (moving). dusk.
Sammy and Rudy drive home in silence. The orange sunlight flickers through the trees and onto their faces as they drive along.
ext. prescott (sammy's) house. dusk.
The same house that Sammy grew up in, with sixteen years' more wear on it.
Sammy's car swings expertly by the mailbox, and Rudy reaches half his body out of the passenger window and gets the mail.
int. sammy's house. dusk.
Sammy comes into the house carrying two bags of groceries. Rudy follows, looking through the mail. Sammy passes through the house and goes into the kitchen.
You got a letter from Uncle Terry.
Her whole face lights up and she grabs the letter. She tears it open and reads it with growing excitement.
int. sammy's bedroom. later.
Sammy opens her file drawer. Inside are tax files, household files, miscellaneous files.
She puts Terry's letter away in a very full file marked "Terry-
Correspondence." The folder is stuffed with other letters, on all different kinds of stationery from all over the country, all from Terry.
int. dining room. night.
Sammy and Rudy are eating dinner. It's a biggish house for just two people.
Whose room is he gonna stay in?
He can stay in the little room. (Pause) But you know what? He's not going to live here. He's only gonna stay for a little while. . . . And it's OK if you don't remember him, because you were only six the last time he was here. . . . But it'll be nice if you got a chance to get to know each other a little bit. Don't you think?
Rudy looks worried and doesn't answer.
int. living room. later.
Rudy is on the floor, writing in his school composition notebook. Sammy comes downstairs.
Rudy? Would it distract you if I put on some music?
She puts on a cd, sits down and picks up a book. She looks at Rudy, who is writing away.
Did you think of a story?
What's it about?
What about your father?
It's just a made-up story about him.
Can I read it when you're done?
It's not very good.
Don't say that.
Rudy keeps writing.
int. living room. later.
Sammy is smoking a cigarette and drinking a glass of wine and reading Rudy's story. It upsets her.
int. sammy's bedroom. later.
Sammy sits on the edge of her bed, not dialing the phone. She catches a glimpse of herself in her parents' floor-length mirror with the worn, heavy wooden frame. Against her better judgment she picks up the phone and dials.
int. dawson's grill. night.
Sammy and bob steegerson are eating dinner at Dawson's, the only fancy restaurant in town. Bob is in his mid-thirties, a Realtor, a decent, ordinary guy.
Anyway, Bob, it's sort of this adventure story, and Rudy's father is this secret agent or something, working for the government. . . . And it just made me feel weird. You know? Because I never really say much to him about Rudy Sr., because I don't know what to say. And I don't know whether I should just let him imagine whatever he wants to imagine, or whether I should sit him down sometime and tell him, you know, that his father is not such a nice person. You know?
Well . . . I don't know, Sammy. What have you told him already?
Not much. He knows I don't have the highest opinion of him. And he knows I don't want to see him or know anything about him, ever. But I tried to keep it kind of neutral. Anyway . . . I could go into a lot more detail, believe me.
Well . . . It's an interesting problem. But I don't really know what to tell you. . . . It's a little outside my personal field of expertise . . .
I'd be glad to give it some thought . . .
He is smiling at her.
Nothing. . . . I'm just glad to see you. . . . I'm glad you called me.
I bet you were surprised . . . !
Bob drains his wineglass. Sammy cuts at her steak.
int. bob's bedroom. night.
Sammy and Bob lie in Bob's bed, a few minutes after having made love. They are very far away from each other, but trying with difficulty not to let on.
I should get going . . .
Yeah. . . . I've got the baby-sitter. . . . But . . . Thanks for a lovely evening.
Oh. Thank you.
She kisses him. She tries to make it sexy, but he's not into it anymore and he politely restricts the kissing.
int. sammy's bathroom. night.
Sammy stands in her slip brushing her teeth in front of the mirror. She brushes vigorously, looking at herself while she brushes.
ext. street corner-worcester, mass. dawn.
The corner window of a grim little apartment building on a very grim street in a grim little city.
int. terry's apartment-worcester, mass. night.
A tiny apartment with a bed, chair, table, fridge, and not much else. One window has a broken pane and an old sheet neatly thumbtacked over it to keep the wind out.
terry prescott comes in. He is twenty-five years old: a real mess with a certain natural appeal. He wears old jeans, very old hiking boots, and a lumberjack-style coat. He takes a wool hat off his head. His hair is longish and dirty.
sheila sadler is sitting at the table by the fridge. She is barely eighteen, frail and damaged.
Terry looks at her and smiles encouragingly. She smiles back.
Where'd you get the hat?
Oh, I got it on the street for a dollar.
Well, you know, it's pretty much your standard woolen hat.
Yeah, I had a very similar reaction to it.
Sheila looks away. Silence.
Can I get that money from you?
As she opens her purse, Terry takes a few vague steps toward her. She takes out a tiny hippie-ish woven wallet and gives Terry all the money in it: a twenty and two ones.
Is that all you have?
Can you borrow some cash from your brother?
Um, yeah, but that would involve speaking to him.
Well, I'm definitely gonna be gone for a couple of days at least, Sheila.