Bragging about writing a terrific movie in six days might be smart. Doing the same for a film that’s been slammed by critics across the country, may not be a good idea. That’s the scenario David Duchovny faces with his writing/directorial debut of “House of D.”
This bungling coming-of-age story suffers from stilted dialogue, cliched subplots, unbelievable characters and uneven pacing, from predictable scenes to completely implausible ones.
Tom Warshaw (David Duchovny) starts the movie as a painter in Paris looking back at his childhood. The film then flashes back to Tommy (Anton Yelchin) as a young boy living in 1970s Greenwich Village.
Duchovny came to San Diego to talk about his film, in which he plays the title role.
“I knew I couldn’t get anyone in my role that would affect the financing better than me, because it wasn’t flashy enough,” he said. “I was also on set, and I knew the character from writing it.”
Tommy wants to be a typical kid, but doesn’t find it easy. His father is dead, and his mother (Tea Leoni) is so depressed Tommy spends most of his time making sure she doesn’t commit suicide. Seconds later, Tommy is outside acting like a goofball 10-year-old instead of a 13-year-old dealing with such grave issues. His character never strikes an emotional arc that resonates.
Then there’s Tommy’s mentally handicapped friend, Pappass, played way over the top by Robin Williams. Pappass rides around on a bike acting like a comedic nerd.
Trying to buy into all of this gets more complicated with the introduction of Lady (Erykak Badu), a prisoner held in the top floor of an aging detention center, the D part of the title. Lady sees Tommy hiding a lunch box with money he’s saving for a bike. She talks to him and becomes his mentor whenever he stands under her window and asks for advice.
“When I was creating that relationship, I wanted it to be mythical,” explained Duchovny, “a knight and a lady in a tower, and he’s come to release her and she’s going to fulfill him by giving him her love. Obviously, it’s not a sexual thing, but I wanted it to be a fairy tale in a way, about enchantment and power.”
Although Badu’s soulful Allman Brothers tunes are pleasant to hear, this entire subplot just doesn’t work.
The film’s other characters are also confused. Tea Leoni effectively shows the tragedy in her own her suffering, but one wonders all the way through the movie why she never reaches out to help her son. Duchovny directed his wife in the role.
“She was nervous because she didn’t want to screw up my movie,” the director said, “but I said, it’s not possible. I had directed her before in an ‘X-Files’ that I wrote and directed.”
“House of D” is playing at La Jolla VIllage AMC.