What's the nature of being a parent and of being a child? David is a widower grieving for two years. He writes science fiction and was considered weird as a boy. He meets Dennis, a foster child who claims to be on a mission from Mars, stays in a large box all day, fears sunlight, and wears a belt of flashlight batteries so he won't float away. David takes the six-year-old home on a trial. His sister and his wife's best friend offer support, but the guys are basically alone to figure this out. Dennis takes things, is expelled, and is coached by David in being normal. Will the court approve the adoption, and will Dennis stay? Can a man become a father and a child become a son? Written by
While walking with his sister Liz (Joan Cusack) in the park, widower David Gordon (John Cusack) confesses, "I just want my life to have meaning..." I think what David really is talking about is a personal legacy. David is considering adopting Dennis (Bobby Coleman), a strange little boy who spends his days in card board box with cut out holes. Oh yes, and Dennis believes he is from Mars. He is here on earth to study "human being-ness". This is the conceit of Director Menno Meyjes's "Martian Child". The screenplay by Seth Bass and Jonathan Tolins is based on the novel by David Gerrold. "Martian Child" really flew under the movie radar. I had heard about it earlier in the year, and got the gist of the story. Being a fan of John Cusack and Amanda Peete, I was curious to see the "Martian Child". More curious was the lack of fan fare or promotion associated with the movie. "Martian Child" plays much like an independent film, except for its talented named cast. "Martian Child" is reminiscent of "K-Pax" with Jeff Bridges and Kevin Spacey. Where "K-Pax" crumbled despite noble intentions with its horrendously ambiguous ending, "Martian Child" has a distinct conclusion without the pretense or ambition. "Martian Child" is not a great movie. However, for what it isit is satisfying. Meyjes's "Martian Child" is a sentimental tear jerker that is so very earnest and sweet. John Cusack is amazing.
John Cusack plays David Gordon, a successful science fiction writer. His best selling book is in production as a big budget Hollywood movie. David's agent Jeff (neurotic Oliver Platt) desperately pleads with David to finish his book sequel draft. Their publisher Mimi (Anjelica Huston) anxiously awaits the draft, so she can throw a coming out party in 6 weeks. That is a little wacky. David's wife and the love of his life died two years ago, and since then much of his life is on hold. He lives in a great home with his dog, Somewhere. David's best friend is the beautiful and radiant Harlee (Amanda Peete)his wife's sister. This makes for a dicey storyline, given the way things usually evolve in these situations. Amanda Peete is great here. She has a naturalness and ease.
David gets a call from his social worker friend Sophie (Sophie Okonedo). Obviously David has reservations about a boy in a box who thinks he's from Mars. Sophie reassures, "You write about Mars." Thus, the experiment begins. David brings Dennis to his home on a trial basis. Dennis wears sun block and sunglasses to counteract being on a planet closer to the sun than Mars. He also wears a weight belt so as not to float away. And Dennis only eats Lucky Charmswhich are magically delicious.
David struggles his way through, and begins to really see Dennis. Dennis reminds him of his younger outsider self. David also starts wondering whether Dennis is really who he says he is following meaningful coincidences at a Cubs baseball game, and Dennis's apparent ability to taste color. This seems like a clumsy narrative device.
What eventually wins over "Martian Child" is the brilliant chemistry between John Cusack and Bobby Coleman. There is an inspired moment when Dennis and David gaze above at the stars. Coleman as Dennis embodies the right awkwardness and innocence. He touchingly asks David "Is it good to be like everyone else?" John Cusack is funny, frustrated and nobly compassionate as David evolves into a caring father. In a moving scene he tells Dennis, "There is nothing you can do to change the way I feel about you " Cusack commands the story's humanity and underlying strength.
We all want to make a difference in life. And we all want to able to love and be lovedthat is what it is to be human. "Martian Child" ultimately celebrates our humanity.
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