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Emily tells her son Paul, now six years old, the story of his life - how she sought motherhood, to be a mom without a husband, to raise a perfect, exceptional child, whom she calls Loverboy. In flashbacks told around a pretend car trip they take - so he can practice driving - we see Paul's infancy, their fun together (sometimes with a manic edge), and his growing desire to go to school and be with other kids. We also flash back to Emily's childhood, with parents so bound up with each other that she's virtually ignored. Is Emily going to be able to let Paul be with others? Or, can she, as in the David Bowie song she sings at a school talent show, construct a life on Mars? Written by
Fitting in with the outside world, respectability, suitability, conformity, were never high on my priority list; neither was normalcy. I admit: I cultivated arrogance. The world would be our school; I wanted to learn it and teach it to you.
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Loverboy brilliantly lays parental love out on the table for all of us to observe in two of its twisted, unbalanced forms. The first is that of young Emily's parents, played sublimely by both director Kevin Bacon, and Marisa Tomei, who think that parenting consists of modeling love by bathing together with the door open and constantly cuddling in front of the child, as though she would be nurtured by having a pair of super-sexed hippie babysitters for guardians. The two are a riot, as is Sosie Bacon, playing with her real-life dad, a girl who sings a Bowie song in a school show in order to shock her parents into caring about her. These flashbacks are intricately woven together with the scenes of the adult Emily, played by Bacon's real wife, Kyra Sedgwick, as she raises her six-year-old Paul (Dominic Scott Kay) on her own, calling him Loverboy. Master Kay holds his own as the increasingly suffocated son, trying to escape his mother's web of the other kind of unbalanced love, being kept "safe" and "smart" and unsullied by society. We feel deeply for Paul, hoping that he will be allowed to stay in school as Emily descends heartbreakingly into madness, fearful that the school is poisoning her child. We pray that Matt Dillon, as a friendly fisherman, will be allowed to take Paul for a "boys only" fishing trip, but even then, the desperate Emily stands on the shore screaming at them to be safe while they're trying to have a few bonding moments together. The movie moves and looks like a dream, and like a dream, it has an explosive, cathartic ending that you have to wake up from. The Bacons in every way have put together a searing work of art, beautifully acted, shot and mounted, that should haunt anyone who can identify with its universally tragic themes.
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