By working through problems stemming from his past, Tom Warshaw, an American artist living in Paris, begins to discover who he really is, and returns to his home to reconcile with his family and friends.
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Based on the true childhood experiences of Noah Baumbach and his brother, The Squid and the Whale tells the touching story of two young boys dealing with their parents' divorce in Brooklyn in the 1980s.
On their son Odell's 13the birthday, graphic artist Tom Warszaw finally confesses to his wife why he fled Greenwich Village, NYC at that age to Paris. As a schoolboy, naturally sensitive, considerate Tommy was best buddy with 'adult' half-wit Pappass, father Duncan's Catholic school's assistant janitor. Smothered by his dependent mother, a dumb orderly, Tommy got 'parental advice' from a women's prison inmate. Together with Pappas, he saves up tips from their butchery delivery rounds. One night, Pappas steals the bike they were saving for. Tommy tries to take the blame, but ends up expelled as if the instigator. Even more tragic consequences follow. Written by
We struggle to grow up all our lives. Many grow old without doing the work involved in truly growing up. We mistakenly think that growing up just happens to us, when in fact that very passivity is what causes us to grow old without ever actually maturing. Growing up requires conscious personal effort. House Of D is about such a man, who in middle age, with a 13 year old son, realizes he is beginning to grow old without having grown up. As his son crosses the threshold to manhood, Tom (Duchovny) makes the decision to confront & resolve the issues that caused him to retreat into himself at 13 rather than advancing into real manhood.
I enjoy Duchovny's acting, and he handled his on screen time capably in the second part of the film. However, the establishing scenes were slightly awkward & stilted. The film only begins to show its spirit when we flash back to New York City 1973.
Anton Yelchin portrays the young Tommy, and has a staggering amount of potential to grow into as an artist. Duchovny has a great feel for directing young people, a task known to be notoriously difficult. There are also some embarrassingly terrible performances, from Robin Williams & Tea Leoni. Williams falls off the horse right at the outset of his portrayal of the 'retarded' Pappass and never manages to get back on again. It seems to be partly poor definition in the writing of the character, and partly the actor's failure to connect with & breathe life into him. This despite a clear on screen rapport between himself & Yelchin. It mars what would have otherwise been a better film. Tea Leoni's performance adds nothing to her career or to the film. It isn't a portrayal, rather a thumbnail sketch. Leoni is an actress of limited ability, who needs strong direction to deliver a capable performance. It was a mistake to have her in the film, as she too succeeds in diminishing it, delivering what comes across as a deliberately bad performance. Leoni's appearance also embarrasses because she is Duchovny's wife and one or both of them should've known better than to allow this.
I was disappointed Frank Langella, undoubtedly the best actor in the movie, had so little to do. His few scenes are wonderful. A pleasure to see Orlando Jones, albeit briefly. Erykah Badu's singing is sublime, and she delivers a strong, warm performance.
Other performances ranged from adequate to forgettable.
Most of the music in the film is decent and well placed.
Duchovny has the potential to be a fine director. This was already known to those who enjoyed the episodes of X-Files he directed. Does he expand his directing skills in House of D? Yes. He shows a real flair for directing young actors, which I had never previously suspected. Duchovny scored high with inexperienced young actors, evoking clean, impressive performances, from Yelchin in particular; but low with veterans Williams & Leoni.
The writing is wildly uneven. Inventive, clever, inspired, insightful & touching in places. At other times it fails to ring true, and some of the plot devices are frankly ludicrous. It's almost as though 2 completely different people worked on the screenplay without ever meeting or actually engaging in a collaboration. I found this a little disconcerting at times. I know Duchovny is a better than average writer, so the unevenness of the script, and the bizarre disjointed quality, had me scratching my head more than once. I wonder what the screenplay originally looked like. Did some heavy-duty editing compromise the coherence of the script?
The cinematography was awesome, whether we were looking at Paris at night or a toilet bowl full of cigarette butts. No surprises there when you realize it's the work of Michael Chapman, who has worked with Scorsese, Allen, and many others. He also worked on Duchovny's film "Evolution."
We're at an interesting stage in our psychological evolution. A quiet revolution is taking place as more & more individuals are learning to embrace a new understanding of personal responsibility. People ARE learning to "see the world a little differently" to refer to the tag line. Some have made the hurtle and are seeing, and living in a new way. A larger number of people are resisting making that leap right now. Change is rarely easy. Letting go of old, outmoded ways of seeing & doing things is hard. House Of D is the story of one human being who makes that leap. Achieving personal sovereignty is a crowning experience that many have deprived themselves of. As more of us step forward to claim this privilege of genuine personal autonomy, and society begins to noticeably shift as a result, films like House Of D will be regarded with more understanding & affection.
Duchovny could've traded on his established image & popularity, played it safe, manufactured a piece of typical Hollywood junk, and have everyone pat him on the back. He didn't and I like that about his attitude.
That's part of what's admirable about him. He's willing to take chances and make an ass of himself. He has made mistakes which would finish other actors. Yet he also has courage, intelligence, daring, originality, humor, and most of all, genuine talent, which keeps bringing us back to consider his work, and finding merit in it. Duchovny has cut his directorial teeth on an unconventional, rewarding first film.
I perceive an iconoclastic, Almodovarian streak lurking in Duchovny both as writer and director. It's there, as a delicious undercurrent running through House Of D. I'd love to see him have the confidence to express that side of himself more in the future. To thine own self be true, David.
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