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A Home at the End of the World

Genre: , ,

Cast: Colin Farrell, Robin Wright Penn, Dallas Roberts, Sissy Spacek

Director: Michael Mayer

Rated: R

Release Date: February 8th, 2005
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Overall Grade: C-

A Home at the End of the World

Review By: Staff

Click Here to Read the Theatrical Review!

A Home at the End of the World

“A Home at the End of the World” is a drama — meaning that it isn’t funny.

Aside from the obvious fact that no one is getting hit with pies, “Home” leaves behind no clues as to its identity. Is this a drama? If so, where is the dramatic tension? Where has all the conflict gone? Should I empathize with these characters? Are they worthwhile? Is this even a movie?

Some may say that my quest to typify such a movie-going experience is one of ignorance, a narrow-minded critic attempting to place a name on something he just didn’t understand. It could be said that “A Home at the End of the World” exists outside the proverbial box — but who would want to waste time on such a box?

“Home” is based on a novel by Michael Cunningham, the author whose prose works wonderfully (and attractively) at illuminating the inner life of even the most mundane ways of life. His greatest success, “The Hours,” succeeded as a motion picture in all of the ways that “Home” fails. With “The Hours,” every interior thought, every longing, desire, yearning was laid bare. In essence, we watched three heroines from the inside-out and even their most humdrum activities seemed riveting. This was the contribution of David Hare, the playwright who adapted Cunningham’s book for the screen and knows a thing or two about building dramatic tension. When we watched Clarissa, Laura, and Virginia live their lives, there was something cinematic about their commonplace existence. Here “life” is endless, meandering and mind-numbing. (Colin Farrell’s portrayal of the “innocent” Bobby doesn’t help much either, coming off more like brain-damaged.)

This has to do with “Home’s” adaptation from page to screen. Here, Cunningham takes the reins and adapts his own novel for the big screen. The result can be called — at best — a misguided effort. “Home’s” characters do not possess the luxury of an inner life because Cunningham has forgotten to imbue them with any sort of vitality. The interior life which Cunningham writes so well has been abandoned at the wayside, in favor of hitting the novel’s major plot points. The characters act because they must, not because they have any reason to.

Unfortunately, Cunningham has not abandoned the major themes of his work — “family comes in all varieties,” “all you need is love” — only the means through which he conveys them. Now, we are treated to dialogue like this:

“When the place is all dark, when you and Clare have gone to sleep, and I’m awake, it’s like being alive and being dead at the same time, y’know? It’s this sorta halfway thing, where people who are alive are dreaming and people who are dead are… where they are. And I’m here… in the dark

and the quiet.”

Gone are the interiors. Here to stay are long-winded, pseudo-poetic monologues where people express their deepest subconscious thoughts for no reason at all. It’s clear that Cunningham’s goal is to script a film that is both literate and profound but the art of such an undertaking is cheapened when the themes are slathered on with a cement trowel. Without the rich prose of Cunningham’s novel “Home” is reduced to a series of plot points — a few insipid events in the lives of colorless people. Naturally, this doesn’t make for an overtly exciting film. That much is obvious. Still, the most serious misstep is the film’s refusal to realize this. No one is interested in watching actors amble from scene to scene, secure in the knowledge that they are communicating something deep or valuable. “Home’s” attempts to be contemplative are totally unsupported — we feel no empathy for these characters; in fact, we don’t even know them. When its aim is to move its audience, the emotion comes off as affected. How can we ever take such a film to heart when it’s been reduced to a sequence of events — cloaked in a veneer of pretentiousness?

DVD Review: Pretty standard fare except for a six-minute featurette entitled “The Journey Home.”

Movie Grade: C-
DVD Grade: C-
Overall Grade: C-

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