May 1, 2005 - by Vivien
Where Imagination and the Heart Meet
"House of D" is a lovely movie. It's warm, happy, sad, sentimental (not a four-letter word in my world), and nostalgic for those of us who were 13 or so in 1973, and anyone else who remembers the era. It tells a tale that may seem rather improbable at points, but that transcends that element to tell a very real story about a boy, Tommy Warshaw (Anton Yelchin), who is finding his way in life with next to no one in his family or immediate circle of friends who can provide significant assistance. He's on his own, really. Those closest to him - his very depressed and sedated mother, the well meaning, mentally challenged Pappass (Robin Williams) who is his best friend, and Lady (Erykah Badu), who speaks to him from her window high above the streets of Greenwich Village where she is a resident of the Women's House of Detention, are only effectual intermittently, with Lady putting on the best show. She tries, and in the end fails. But she at least speaks honestly to, and is there for Tommy.
The movie isn't flawless, but for the life of me, I don't understand why it has been so savaged by the critics. I knew there would be bad reviews, but I never would have predicted that they would be the majority or that some would be so venomous - I am on such a different page. Yes, there are a couple of continuity problems, and I could have done without a line that referred to Pappass as being 41 - Robin Williams is fine in the role, but he isn't 41. The line didn't really need to be there. The bigger problem for me was the lack of story for Tom as an adult. The opening scenes that show David as an adult Tom, living in Paris, and estranged from his wife and son, aren't enough. If I hadn't read already about the estrangement, I wouldn't have known that this was the situation. It also lessened the emotional impact of everything that came after. I'm not saying that I wasn't touched, but I would have been even more if there had been a better balance between the two sides of the story.
The one thing I do agree with the critics on is that Anton Yelchin was wonderful. I haven't seen "Hearts in Atlantis," so now I will definitely have to rent it. He was really a perfect younger David and his look was so right for 1973. His scenes with Téa were very good, and I thought the two of them were quite believable as mother and son. Téa was excellent. Her character here isn't as unlikable the one she played in "Spanglish," but both are 'difficult' types, and she really got it each time.
In regard to the other actors - I thought they were all good with the exception of Magali Amadei who played Tom's wife, Coralie - she didn't really have much presence. I'd rather have seen Olga Sosnovska who played Simone, in this role. Robin Williams was good - It wasn't what I would call a standout performance, but it was well modulated and I think it worked. The scene toward the end where Pappass tells Tom that 'now you're wearing the Dad face' was very moving. I hope Zelda Williams has much success - based on her performance here as Melissa, she deserves it. She and Anton were terrific together.
As for David the actor - he was wonderful. There is a scene at the end between Tom and Lady, that evoked the same emotions for me that many of his scenes over the run of "The X-Files" did. He knows just how much to give, and it works every time.
This was a terrific first effort in directing and writing a feature film for David, and I'm so happy that it is finally here. I only wish that it were being appreciated as fully as it deserves to be.