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If you'd like to see an actor go beyond what's expected in his expression of self, then see this movie. Being that Duchovny not only appears in but wrote "House of d" should lend you to the depth this man carries, far beyond any Mulder personification could have introduced. The movie deals with growing up and the challenges a boy must face beyond the stereotypical expectation of getting laid. This movie challenges the audience to feel safe with being uncomfortable. Robin Williams was wonderful as was the rest of the cast being as honest and true to not only their characters, but to the struggle of being human. I commend David for taking such a risk at being real. Besides that he hasn't lost a beat when it comes to applying his dry wit at exactly the right moment. If you like Upside of Anger or Finding Neverland, this movie is for you.
I was fortunate enough to happen upon two free tickets to a sneak
preview here in La Jolla. I enjoyed the movie thoroughly. The audience
I was a part of was audibly drawn into the film. The plot is completely
character-driven, revolving around a very honest 13-year-old. The
honesty of this character--a unique portrayal of any boy this age--was
portrayed sincerely, and as such the film read as very heartfelt. The
sincerity is most profoundly seen in his relationship with a
developmentally disabled adult, Pappass (Robin Williams), purely for
the sake of companionship and not out of sympathy or having been forced
into the friendship. In a time when the phrase "that's so retarded" is
so ubiquitously used as a put-down, it was refreshing to see a
character created who is not at all fazed by the stigma of befriending
someone who is disabled or 30 years older than himself (let alone
both). Each character seemed to be written with such empathy that you
could be drawn into any one of their stories, if the movie so followed
those stories. To those who call this film trite, I argue that this
heartfelt empathy makes it unique among mainstream films whose
screenplays contain characters so generalized that the actors must
create any depth for their characters.
All in all, I enjoyed watching this film and would recommend it to my friends. And to those looking for an excuse to dismiss my 9/10 vote, no I am not a David Duchovny fan. I hardly even saw 3 episodes of the X-Files. I just liked the film. :-)
I had the opportunity to see this on Sunday at the Tribeca Film Festival.
It's a simple but heartwarming fable about a young boy growing up in 1970s
New York City. The acting was wonderful all around, but the standouts
Anton Yelchin (who will one day be a star, I predict) and Erykah Badu.
Robin Williams and Tea Leone were also very good. I wouldn't be surprised
if Robin gets some Oscar buzz for this role.
I went with my mother and a friend, and all three of us enjoyed it immensely. A very good first effort from David Duchovny, who proves he's not just that X-Files guy.
Set mostly in a flashback to 1973 New York City, this is at heart not a coming of age movie but a coming to terms movie. From the opening scenes in Paris, we're set up by a voice-over narrative to expect terrible events which would change a boy's life. And, true to its word, we are delivered a series of disasters, many of which are prefigured in a short-handed kind of way. But it doesn't really matter, because you know where the film is heading, and your reaction to the last 15 minutes coming out of the flashbacks will pretty much determine whether you like this film or not. (Note that the ratings here are split pretty dramatically between very positive and very negative.) The things that are right with the film are good, sometimes very good. At the top of the "good" list is Erykah Badu's outstanding performance as a prisoner in the Women's House of Detention , an urban jail with windows over the street, who offers conversation and advice to the young protagonist. Also, the evocative period setting, which puts to shame a lot of films with many times the budget. Finally, there are a few deft touches of humor in the dialog, particularly in the early scenes of school life. The other performances are a bit more uneven. Anton Yelchin, the younger version of Duchony's character, is often winning and natural, but when real crisis hits, I didn't buy his grief and desperation. Not knowing the Robin Williams role, I cringed a bit when he first appeared on screen, but his performance is for the most part fairly restrained -- at least by Robin Williams' standards. Ducovny and wife Tea Leoni were competent but not compelling. We saw this film at a preview that featured a Q&A with Ducovny afterward. He clearly has affection for the material and, if anything, set out to make an even more modest film, budget-wise, than this. This is potentially pretty dicey plot material and could have veered severely wrong, particularly toward sloppy sentimentality. While I don't think the film entirely escaped this, it's certain a better film than, say, the dreadfully manipulative, "The Notebook". If you're not expecting too much and you can appreciate the 70's period setting, you'll probably enjoy this. If you're expecting a genius writer-director first film out of Ducovny -- you will be disappointed. Bottom line: give Ducovny some space and let's wait for his second film before delivering an real judgment on his career as writer-director.
Of course I went into the premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival hoping to
like it. Still, I'm not sure I would have liked anything on the screen
because it was David's; I have a highly-developed sense of being able to
cringe in empathetic embarrassment when someone I like royally screws
something up. So while I wanted to like what I saw, I also prayed I
have to cringe anywhere along the line.
I needn't have worried. It's a lovely piece of work. It's just sweet enough to grab at your heart; it's just gritty enough to have its feet firmly on the ground. The writing is 'lean' in the best sense of the word: there is not an ounce of fluff on it; nothing gratuitous that was tossed in for the easy laugh or for the cheap pathos of the moment. Every word in the script, every shot in every scene, earned the right to be there.
What I loved about David's writing in his two X-F eps, I loved here too. It's character-driven, not plot-driven; so while he definitely has an idea of the story arc, rather than having a sense that he molded the characters' actions to fit the plotline, you feel he presented these characters with this situation and let them tell him how they handled it. Because of this,
you don't see actors reading lines -- you see living, breathing people, having lives. In many films you can spot one or two actors who achieve this through their own talents, but when it's everybody in the production, you have to assume it was the writing and direction that gave them their wings.
These people must have loved working for him. He has said that he didn't really have a hard idea of how the lines were supposed to read or how the scenes were supposed to be played; he just wrote down the words and let the actors take them. And he was smart enough to assemble a group of actors who could not just take them but could run with them. If Anton Yelchin in particular is not considered for some awards for this performance, it will be very surprising indeed.
The camera work and editing are marvelous. Again, he was smart enough to hire very good people, but we saw the evidence of his good eye in those two X-F eps, and it's a cinch he didn't have to hire those people to make up for anything he was lacking. Right from the get-go, the visuals of the opening scenes are so engaging, and it stays that good throughout. Like the writing, the cinematography and production are very purposefully done, and all work toward achieving a particular effect.
So, okay. It wasn't as good as I hoped it would be... it was better. :-)
In his feature debut as both writer and director, Duchovny offers up a
heartfelt film filled with well anchored elements of character, humor,
ethical dilemmas and choices that pave the roads of our lives.
Strong, well chosen casting with inspiring performances by Anton Yelchin (Tommy), Robin Williams (Pappass) and Erykah Badu (Lady) add to a meaningful story that Duchovny rooted in his childhood neighborhood of New York.
In a world today where the baptism of manhood is often forged with sex, gangs and violence, Duchovny takes us back into an inner battlefield where the true merit of a hero's journey is fought. Within one's self.
I saw it in a screening preview and would be happy to pay to see it again. And this time, I'd bring the teens.
House of D is a fine film with a lot of humor and many touching
I saw a showing of it in Cambridge and, while it was not very well attended, the audience who was there seemed to enjoy it. There was a lot of laughter at appropriate moments and applause at the end. Also, the comments I overheard were all positive.
The movie isn't perfect, but the writing is so fresh and and powerful. It seems not enough good is being said about it, perhaps due to lack of courage to go against some of the important names, but what do I have to lose? I thought Tea Leone's performance was heartfelt and painfully accurate in her portrayal of a young mother who'd recently lost her husband.
Every shot of Erykha Badu was beautiful, as well. I never realized what an amazing face that woman has.
There were moments of sheer brilliance, in my opinion, that I won't spoil in this space. Moments where boyhood and manhood are juxtaposed and the struggle between the two physically hurts.
All in all, I felt it was very real, very touching, and very well done. The mixture of comedy and drama is as it is life, tied together with strands of reality.
I would recommend you go to see this film with an open heart and mind. I don't think you'll be disappointed.
I was quite impressed with David Duchovney's writing and directing. The
script provides light moments that create laughter along with realistic
portrayals of true life incidents which create drama.
But, the primary reason for enjoying the movie was as much Robin Williams' excellent performance as the script. I am so impressed by the talent of Robin Williams, who is noted for making all of us laugh with continuous antics. In "House of D" he not only makes the audience laugh but also cry with his brilliant depiction of a disadvantaged adult.
Whenever a movie, such as "House of D," can create enjoyment by taking the audience through an array of emotions, from anger to joy through drama and comedy I rate the movie a 10.
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.
This story is about acceptance, and the coexistence of strengths and weaknesses that we all struggle to understand. The central character makes the best of an unfair hand he's dealt, and the basic character of this film is inspiring. The cleverness of the humor, the courageous use of the unabashedly implausible, gives us the lyricism of SESAME STREET or Hans Christian Anderson, with grit and passion. Zelda Williams (daughter of Robin), Frank Langella, Tea Leoni, Anton Yelchin, Erykah Badu, (the always great) Orlando Jones, David Duchovny and Robin Williams all bring us bar-raising performances. If you liked TERMS OF ENDEARMENT or A DOOR IN THE FLOOR, you'll love HOUSE OF D. The brilliant truth-bell ringing details are charming and plentiful. And it is a lovely, intimate gesture that the filmmaker shares a story that can only be believed in its meaning because it's in part a true story. It is very logical that someone might need to tell a story if they had spent a childhood and adolescence imagining the events behind the closed walls and tiny windows of a prison filled with women who've lost their way. And he passes this house of detention on the way to the realities behind the closed doors of his home. HOUSE OF D is like sitting down with an acquaintance, being touched and sometimes very amused by his secrets, and coming away loving him, embracing him and really rooting for him.
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