Friday, March 8
A Home at the End of the World: Favorite Movie #14
From Warner Bros.
Directed by Michael Mayer
The story opens in the mid-60s in Cleveland and Bobby Morrow is 9 years old. Before we're even 15 minutes into it, Bobby sees his older brother Carlton boinking his girlfriend and then Carlton tells his young brother that Bobby has been a virgin too long. Shortly thereafter Carlton shares some windowpane acid with Bobby and tells him it's a big world out there and anything can happen. And it does. Bobby is hiding behind the drapes when Carlton walks through the windowed doorwall and instantly dies. This is just for starters.
Neither the movie nor this review is for the faint of heart. You have been alerted. This ain't Old Yeller. Read on with someone nearby so that he or she can pick you up after you have slumped to the floor. Oh, I am such a joker.
Before long Bobby's entire family has died and he goes to live with a school friend, Jonathan, and his parents. Bobby soon has his friend and the friend's mother smoking weed as if it's no big deal. There is a wonderful scene in the bed the two teenage boys are sharing... one that I smiled through because of the memories it evoked. The same could be said for a lot of eager-to-be-horny teenage guys.
It's a sleepover where both young boys are sharing the same bed in a darkened room, feigning sleep. Then an arm moves under the covers, snaking up and over onto his bedmate's most precious instrument of affection. The only sounds are the serious thumping of those hearts. Ka-boom. Soon the other one is doing the same thing. They scoot a little closer but the enjoyment is short-lived because it doesn't take two youngsters very long to finish up. They then quietly wind up back-to-back, heads still reeling, soon to drift off to a very comfortable sleep. It was a brilliantly written and conceived scene. (When we hear that most men have had a homosexual encounter, at least one, for many this is the one.)
Bobby has some really special moments with the mother, played by Sissy Spacek, that indicated to me that while they probably didn't sleep together, it wasn't an idea foreign to them either. I suspect, too, that if Bobby's family had lived, he could easily have slept with one or more of them, as well. Bobby found it natural to sleep with anyone he loved.
Bobby continued to live with Jonathan's parents even after Jonathan moved to New York. While Jonathan has now come out, he lives with the fascinating and always unusual Clare. Other than a penchant for unusual hairstyles and clothing choices, Clare does mix and match in most quests in life although she is certain she doesn't want to live like the Brady bunch. At the point of moving in with Clare and Jonathan, Bobby has not had sex with women. Bobby is not gay, Jonathan tells Clare, it's hard to say what Bobby is. Clare is a free-spirit who finds herself madly in love with Bobby and soon after he with her and an unusual relationship is born.
And it will be an unusual relationship and an unusual film for some folks. I recall several walkouts in the three times I saw it in the theaters. I am drawn to unusual lifestyles, I guess. I can find ordinary, standard-issue on any block, in any rural area, in any city, any country and I've never been much impressed with it. I don't even count being gay as so unusual and in my world, of course, it's not. But I sat up straight for this film because I got to be a voyeur in a relationship that one doesn't see often or at all. A man and a woman love one another and also love a gay man and make him a part of their relationship. It does not include sex for the two men but otherwise they're as close as three people could be. (Thank God Donna Reed was already gone when this came out.)
Bobby and Jonathan do have some intimate scenes together, twice while dancing which also includes kissing. Jonathan has more of an issue with it than Bobby does. What are you doing, he inquires after Bobby plants a big one on him. These scenes are done so well; I have such a special affection for them.
One of the questions one might ask is does this sort of relationship truly work out? How successful are we when we tamper with that old tradition? The characters all grapple with that as well and you'll have to see it to find out. If you haven't seen it, I hope that you will.
It's not a perfect film, although it's pretty damned close to that for me. Hey, it IS my 14th favorite film of all time. Hello. Personally, I wish it had been longer. At 97 minutes, it occasionally skims the surface when I wanted more and in some cases much more. Once in a while I felt we were all being rushed along. Even the naysayers should admit that this little gem of a film is well-intentioned. It can't be faulted for that. It should easily peel back a layer of resistance that some folks have when it comes to allowing people or a lifestyle into our consciousness that we don't understand. It gives way to the current expression of think outside the box. If one can do that while viewing this film, I can see it could be a transformative experience.
A Home at the End of the World cannot be faulted for the acting. It was stellar by the entire cast. All three people who played Bobby were spot on. Andrew Chalmers as the 9-year old Bobby and Eric Smith as the teenage Bobby offered so much more than the younger versions of lead characters often do. Credit some good writing here, as well.
Colin Farrell gives his watershed performance. He has never been so persuasive and this role required an actor to step up. Just imagine the acting chops required for a person like we hear Farrell to be when he has to cry while being deflowered? Clare tries everything in her arsenal to seduce him, to get him to make a move toward her, when she says well, there's just no smooth or sophisticated way to do this, and in the next scene she is girl on top.
Two more lovely surprises happened. One was that while I had never disliked Robin Wright (Clare) whatsoever, I also couldn't say that I paid a lot of attention to her work. That has changed as a result of this film. I am up-to-date now on her work. I had never heard of Dallas Roberts (Jonathan) so I got a new actor to admire. Never a bad thing for me.
There were many tasty scenes featuring some delicious writing, most of it highlighting heavy emotions, and credit certainly must be given to Pulitzer Prize-winning author Michael Cunningham, who also penned The Hours. This was Michael Mayer's first theatrical film directing and I think he acquitted himself well. One always wonders whether the few things one didn't like as much might have been cleared up with a more experienced director, but I guess we'll never know.
At one point a baby comes into the picture and Clare marvels at the way Bobby handles it all. You can do anything, she purrs, while he demurs. She names some things that she hopes proves her point and he says in a hushed tone, I can't be alone.
I was so stirred. It's a very touching film. Here, take a peek:
Book review of Lee Marvin: Point Blank