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A Home at the End of the World 2004

From the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of "The Hours" comes a story that chronicles a dozen years in the lives of two best friends who couldn't be more different. From suburban Cleveland in...

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I watched this film for the 3rd time since I saw it in the cinema. Still has an effect on me. Great acting and well told plot. Loved the selflessness and friendship in this movie. 9/10
If I don't do this now, I'm never going to.

I haven't had much time at all to do much, so here's my crappy take on the day I spent at the CineVegas Film Festival.

I got to the Palms hotel at about 1:00pm for my 1:30 screening of A Home at the End of the World. I went to will call to pick my tickets up, as I paid for them already. But they weren't there, so the lady gave me all my tickets for the day, and didn't charge me again.

I waited around the lobby because they weren't letting anyone into the theatre yet. Finally I went in, and saw the movie. All I knew about A Home at the End of the World is that Colin Farrell is in it, and it's based on a Michael Cunningham novel.

Farrell plays Bobby, a guy just in love with life. We get to know Bobby throughout many years, during different times in his life. It's not until he's 15 that we really get to know him. He starts having a friendship/sexual relationship with a guy he meets in school named Jonathan, and eventually moves in with him and his family when his father dies.

Several years later, Bobby needs a place to live, and Jonathan invites him to his apartment, after years of not speaking. This is where the very red headed, and amazingly beautiful and talented Robin Wright Penn is introduced as John's roommate. And a family is formed between the three.

It's a nice story. They have a child, and the three of them raise it. Start their own business. The story is what I like most about this. How three people, all different, get to together, and raise a child. It's just nice. A Home at the End of the World is a tad but long, and sometimes a little boring, but it's pretty good. The acting is great. Colin Farrell looks like a bum for the first half. Sissy Spacek is John's mom, and she's awesome. Newcomer Dallas Roberts is Jonathan, and he's probably the weakest actor of the bunch, but he pretty much holds his own.

I guess that's about it. It's not a great film, but it's nice enough for me to recommend. And if you're into Colin Farrell, you get some partial nudity.

A Home at the End of the World: B

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The film festival was set up really, really badly. They only had three screens, and everything started at pretty much the same time, so you had to wait an hour or even more before seeing the next film. So after an hour of waiting around eating Ben and Jerry's, I went in to see the Italian Ricordati de mi which was really good. Much better than I thought. Before leaving my house, I looked this one up on imdb, and it was nominated for a ton of the Italian oscar equivalents, so that's why I chose to see it. And then I saw that Monica Bellucci was in it, and she's my favorite (Behind Blanchett) so I had to see it.

And I'm very glad I did. The film is about a family that's having some problems, as a whole, and individually. The family consists of the father, who meets an ex, and falls back in love with her, the mother who's grown bored of an ordinary life, and wants to prove to everyone she's worth something, so she starts acting again. The daughter wants to be famous, and the son is having problems with women.

The acting is just really great from everyone. The mother and father looked really familiar, but I looked them up on imdb, and I don't think I've seen them before. And then there is Monica Bellucci, who is just so beautiful I honestly don't think I'd be able to tell if she's doing a bad job. She just makes me smile whenever she's on screen.

The script is both touching, and funny. It's really witty when it needs to be, and emotional at other times. It's shot beautifully, and, if this film is ever released, I think everyone needs to see it.

Ricordati de me (Remember Me, My Love): A

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After this one, I had an hour and a half to wait. So annoying. And I didn't want to attempt gambling, and getting kicked out, so I just walked around. I played in the arcade a bit, too.

So finally, I got in to see The Notebook. Whenever I read something someone has said about The Notebook, both before, and after seeing it, it always involves crying. So I was prepared to ball my eyes out.

Anyway, McAdams and Gosling a great. They have great chemistry, and James Garner is good, but Gena Rowlands just, really isn't. I don't know what's up with her, she's like trying to get a comeback or something. Anyway, she's old and should be retired.

Everyone knows the story already, so I'm not going to go into that. There's some great cinematography here. Really breathtaking at points. Like I said earlier, the acting is overall really great, Rowlands aside. It's major problem is that it's a little long, but that doesn't matter all that much.

And it's pretty melodramatic. It's seemed like it just wanted to make you cry. But I'm a strong lad, I guess. I normally have some problems keeping my tears from flowing, but nothing was happening here. And only a few women in the audience were crying as well. So I don't know what everyone was talking about.

I recommend this one if you want to see a good romance, but otherwise, it's an easy pass.

The Notebook: B
A Home at the End of the World (Mayer, 2004): B.

The first thing I noticed during Colin Farrell's much touted nude-scene-that-wasn't was the size of his calves. Seriously, the man is standing on some rodeo bulls, which he only occasionally manages to rope in in order to keep his patented Irish swagger down to a minor strut. His physicality turns out to be one of several incongruities in Michael Cunningham's shockingly amateurish script, which director Michael Mayer seems to elevate to occasional brilliance only by accident. Farrell and his compatriots strive to stick newspaper into the cockroach crevices of the rickety design, but this too is a disservice to the immeasurable onscreen talent in that natural actors like my Irish boy and subtle actors like Robin Wright Penn and Sissy Spacek veer dangerously into ham country when they push too hard. (Wispier and mannered actors like Nicole Kidman and Joseph Fiennes fare much better with this sort of edge).

Illustrating my frustration, there's this singular moment that defines the push-me-pull-you nature of the movie that almost was. Colin, as twentysomething Bobby, comes to 1980's New York City to live with his childhood best friend Dallas Roberts' Jonathon. Upon inviting Bobby out for a catch-up drink, Jonathon pleads with his best friend Clare, Penn's character, to accompany them with an economy of words and a multitude of psychological subtext. Picking up on this, Penn's subtle interplay between the two men promises its audience of deeper kisses with an actorly peck on the cheek. And with these chess pieces in place, Mayer. Does. Nothing.

I guess I wanted more (a cockshot would have been nice), but digging deeper past the superficial grace of the alternative story would have been even nicer. The movie asks us to redefine what it means to be a family; it wouldn't have hurt them to define it first.

Before Sunset (Linklater, 2004): A-.

Like a veritable sponge, Linklater's risky sequel soaks up every last bit of honest romance at the movies this summer and holds it in for a strong 80 minutes, while we bath ourselve in the intimacy we are privy to on screen. There's no nudity and nary a kiss in sight, yet it's altogether evident that we are the fly that skips the wall to land on the underwear of Ethan Hawke's Jesse and Julie Delpy's sublime Celine. This is a continuation of a relationship of ideas, a much truer melding of minds that assures us that these young, yes, still young, lovers will actually continue loving each other when the cameras are off. There's no Hollywood "chemistry" cooked up or a sweet but trite button to press, Jesse and Celine simply pass the ribbon of words and memories around themselves, ever tightening the knot until it's undeniable that they are supposed to be together before sunrise, before sunset, and before any more time can be wasted apart from each other.

Fahrenheit 9/11 (Moore, 2004): B.

It reflects poorly on Michael Moore's shiny glasses that after several weeks, his magnum o-Bush resonates with the longevity of a presidential soundbite. There's method to his Moore-ness in deconstructing Dubya, but the same media skepticism that Moore trumpeted in his far superior Bowling for Columbine is the very termite that undermines the foundation for his incendiery message. Shrunken down by my voodoo magicks I like to call "watching a movie," it really seemed that Moore was fundamentally upset with the secrecy with which Bush conducts his current administration, not the actions themselves. I'm oversimplifying to make a point (hey, so I did learn something from Mikey), but the vendetta that Moore takes to Bush's front steps seems to have its freedom fires stoked more by petulant curiousity than by a patriotic documentarian with an actual opinion on how to fuckin' solve the problem. Dissent is best served on a plate of hope and practicality, Mr. Moore, remember that.

Spider-Man 2 (Raimi, 2004): B-.

Ladies and gents, the next great villain to burn the silver screen and take a place beside Darth Vader and Cruella De Vil as a baddie to behold is... Kirsten Dunst's freakishly heavy eyelids. Sometimes I really felt like they would just reach out of the fourth wall and crush me for all the incredulous laughter erupting from my audience and me during the PMS-like bloatiness of the dialogue. Fun everything else, though.
...you'll be disappointed because it was edited from the movie. The movie itself, the story of two best friends, one gay, from their teenage years to adulthood, including falling in love for the same woman with whom they share a home with, and the complexity of that relationship, feels like watching a Hallmark TV movie sometimes, with its everything's-going-to-be-alright scenarios and feel-good ending, but the movie is still worth watching for its first half characterization of the two boyhood friends growing up together-- experimenting with marijuana (even enlisting one's mother, Sissy Spacek in a delightful role, to join them), discovering sex, and sharing their problems. Robin Wright Penn, as the girlfriend that comes between the friendship, falls in love with both and bears the child of one of them, is the gem of this movie!! She gives a wonderfully eccentric, funny and touching performance that I hope will be remembered come Oscars time!!


quite nice; a few excellent performances; some transition problems; great sets and costumes but terrible hair (except for Robin Wright Penn's); good kid actors; sad ending; excellent beginning (way to go, Ryan Donowho); a few scenes in the middle really very real and really affecting; a few scenes in the middle hopelessly artificial; worth seeing; political and timely, yes in a soap opera-ish way; life is certainly very hard sometimes; memory and duty sometimes do rule our decisions; free will is posited and affirmed; not a great movie but a thoughtful one; the book is better in many respects, but this is a good movie, yes it is.
The tagline for this flick (from Warner Independent) is "Family can be whatever you want it to be." A more accurate line would be "A plot is whatever you claim it is." but what do I know? We're in Cleveland, 1967. When Bobby is 9, he sees his 16 year old brother Carlton die rather gruesomely. This would fuck up anyone, but Bobby has a serious case of hero worship going, so it will probably destroy him. But it doesn't. It is the major turning point in his life, though, as big brother was the only one in Bobby's young life to give him unconditional love. At this point, about 10-15 minutes in, the movie had me. I have an older brother that I grew up worshipping (and another with whom I still only have a passing acquaintanceship) and I felt the film was on its way to actually affecting me. Especially since movie theatres have of late become my favorite places to cry. But like I said, we're only 10-15 minutes in...


By the time Bobby graduates high school, his parents are dead and he's living with best friend Jonathan and his family. Bobby becomes an older-brother type to Jonathan and the two spend a lot of time smoking pot and exploring their sexuality together. When Jon's mom catches them toking away, an unfazed Bobby gets her to smoke up with them. Bobby has that kind of affect on people. If only Dr. Freud made house calls.


It's somewhere around here that they lost me. Maybe it's because I figured out that Jon's going to fall in love with Bobby when they first meet. Maybe it's because I saw every single plot device coming from 20 minutes on. maybe it's because I started to wonder if director Michael Mayer is the same Michael Mayer who's been unsuccessfully directing musicals on Broadway for the past 7 years (it is*).


So, Bobby grows up to be Colin Farrell and he ends up living with Jonathan (Dallas Roberts) and Clare (Robin Wright Penn), his fag hag. What a nice set-up. Clare's in love with Jonathan, Jonathan's in love with Clare and Bobby is pretty much still hung up on his brother's death, trying to live life the way Carlton would have wanted. Probably. It's hard to tell as neither Carlton, nor Bobby's parents are ever mentioned after they die.


So that's the movie. There's a baby involved, but by the time she is born, you won't care. That's the problem with A Home..., I just didn't care. The first two segments of the film (Bobby at 9 and Bobby at 16) are told specifically from Bobby's point of view. When he grows up and moves to the East Village, it's not just Bobby's story, it's also Clare's and Jonathan's, and their points of view were added to the mix. This choice did not work. Instead of caring about one character (and I did), I didn't care about three. And it didn't help matters that Jonathan was utterly uninteresting and his handling rather homophobic. Just because a movie takes place in 1982, doesn't mean that we need to resurrect the stereotypes of 1982. He bitches. He pouts. He uses a high heeled shoe as a garden implement (don't ask). He meets a guy at a screening of All About Eve and goes home with him (come on, movie. You're not even trying!). And finally, he gets AIDS, because that's what happens to a gay character in the 80s when you don't know what else to do with him. At least we're spared a death scene. Anyway.


My point here is that potentially interesting characters and a potentially interesting situation were thrown into the movie blender and were thoroughly pureed. I really don't know who to blame for all this. First-time director Mayer? Possibly, he is the director, after all, and he actually used a POV shot of parents cooing at a baby. How precious. Screenwriter Michael Cunningham? I haven't read his novels, but he did win the Pulitzer. It's possible all of the themes were satisfactorily explored in his novel and he just can't write screenplays. He certainly didn't do well with this one.


So let's talk about the cast. Bobby was played at 9 by Andrew Chalmers and at 16 by Erik Smith, Bobby's brother Carlton was Ryan Donowho. These were the actors that got me invested in the first place and they were terrific. How often do you lose interest in a film once the characters grow up and are played by the principals? Harris Alan was Jonathan at 16 and he really reminded me of someone I hate, so we'll move along. Sissy Spacek was a dream as Jonathan's mother, but in my mind this woman can really do no wrong. She's one of the few actresses around who doesn't make it look like acting. Robin Wright Penn was mag as Clare, utterly believable and never irritating -- this is next to impossible to pull off when playing a "wild child." Dallas Roberts did what he could with Jonathan (go up 2 paragraphs).


And now a small confession: I only went to this movie to see if Colin Farrell could act. I have a thing for dark Irish guys and I still haven't grown out of my bad boy phase, so Colin is my walking wet dream and I hated to think I fell for a pretty face with no depth attached. And I didn't. Bobby spends his life trying to fill the void left by the death of his brother and there was an overlay of sadness to Farrell's interpretation that would have been moving had the film consistently kept the focus on his character.


And the music was great.


*In 1997 Mayer directed Triumph of Love based on the play by Marivaux: 85 performances. Flop.
In 1999, You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown: 149 performance. Flop.
In 2002, Thoroughly Modern Millie: 903 performances. I don't know if it was a success financially (I doubt it), but the NY Times said sitting though the show was like getting run over by a stampede of circus ponies. Yes, it won the Best Musical Tony, but so did Big River. And Sunset Boulevard. And La Cage Aux Folles. And Raisin....
1/4 / *****



My previous review:

A cinematographically perfect film, Hero, reunits onscreen legendary duo Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung , who are most notably featured in the film In the Mood for Love. Hero follows one assassin (Jet Li), and his story, as he travels the path of vengeance to kill China's emperor and defeat three other assassins. Many have argued that this film is purely visual, but I disagree based on the fact that I myself have studied the art of Zen and appreciate nearly everything having to do with Asian culture, therefore the content itself was just as impactful as both its pristine beauty and special effects.
A Home at the End of the World (Michael Mayer, 2004) 7/10:fresh:



The second Michael Cunningham adaptation to hit theaters in the last few years (the first was the rancid The Hours) is a real surprise. The difference between the two is that Cunningham actually wrote the screenplay for Home. What made The Hours so terrible was how theatrical and phony it all felt. The only thing missing from that movie was the spotlight. Here, the drama is nicely understated. There are some great comedic moments that help make that drama all the more touching and memorable. I liked all of the performances, and hope that Dallas Roberts is remembered come awards season (not likely). That's not to say that Colin Farrell, Robin Wright Penn, and Sissy Spacek aren't also worthy of praise.

The film does have its share of flaws, however. It takes a little while for the story to finds its groove. The early scenes come off as being a bit too goofy (sometimes unintentionally) and they don't really seem to fit in with the rest of the movie. Though it does end up all changing for the better. Once the movie finds its feet it really flows nicely. It's a shame this movie is already being forgotten, because while it isn't essential viewing, it is one of the better movies that I've seen this year.


Glad I'm down the street from the independent movie theater

I took a long lunch to go see A Home at the End of the World with my brother. I had read Michael Cunningham's book a while back and was enamored by the beginning, left a bit empty by the ending.

The movie was better in a way.

One thing I couldn't stand were the "period" wigs-the 70's being so difficult.

Sure it was sticky with sap, but I dug the characters. I wanted to smoke a joint and slow dance with Sissy Spacek.
VERY GOOD DRAMA, NICELY ACTED, ESPECIALLY SPACEK. GOOD STORY AND PACE.