"House" of self-indulgent horrors
David Duchovny's "House of D" is the kind of personal film that fails in a way that makes your teeth ache. It's obviously a labor of love...
Special to The Seattle Times
David Duchovny's "House of D" is the kind of personal film that fails in a way that makes your teeth ache. It's obviously a labor of love on the part of its first-time writer-director, but as a coming-of-age memoir it lacks charm, originality and taste.
Duchovny, who was born in New York in 1960, also plays a cameo role: the grown-up version of Tom Warshaw, a Paris-based husband and father who spends most of the movie fondly remembering his childhood in Greenwich Village in 1973, when, as he puts it, "a boy breaks into manhood." Duchovny claims the flashbacks to the 1970s are not autobiographical, which is not difficult to buy because the period details are so sloppy.
Anton Yelchin ("Hearts in Atlantis") plays the 13-year-old Tom, who somehow manages to see "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" one year before it was released and to quote Richard Nixon's famous Watergate explanation, "I'm not a crook," before the president felt hounded enough to say it. In any other memoir, those might pass as trivial errors, but here they simply reinforce the sense that the movie is out of touch with its own nostalgia.
The title, "House of D," refers to the Women's House of Detention, a prison that was once part of Greenwich Village. Tom regularly visits one of the inmates (Erykah Badu) for advice about his peculiar living conditions. His single mother (Téa Leoni, Duchovny's wife) is a chain-smoking neurotic who delivers lectures to her son while she's sitting on the toilet and he's showering.
His best friend (Robin Williams in maudlin mode) is a none-too-bright, 41-year-old school janitor who assists Tom in making bicycle deliveries. Also helping him to grow up are a stern but wisecracking teacher (Frank Langella) and a girl (Zelda Williams, Robin's daughter) who gives him his first clandestine kiss in a meat locker.
The early scenes are so obsessed with naughty words and adolescent jokes about erections, urination and genital size that the movie threatens to turn into "American Pie 4." Entire scenes revolve around Tom and his classmates getting their bewildered French teacher to mispronounce "bonheur."
Then there's a jolting shift into romance and tragedy, followed by an overlapping series of sappy finales (including an excruciating airport episode in which the janitor lapses into momentary brilliance) that needlessly delay the end credits. Langella and Badu, who bring some wit to their roles, provide almost the only relief.
John Hartl: email@example.com