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House of D
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this movie has locker-room talk of erections, masturbation, tricking the French teacher into saying English naughty words, and other matters in school; lurid family melodrama out of school, eventually encompassing robbery, suicide, and mercy-killing.
What's the story?
HOUSE OF D follows the story of Tom Warshaw (played as an adult by David Duchovny), an artist living in Paris with his French wife and son. When he misses his son's 13th birthday, Tom flashes back on his own childhood in New York City. Young Tom (Anton Yelchin) goes on a scholarship to a Greenwich Village Catholic school. He seems to fit in well enough with his sex-crazed, smart-mouthed adolescent peers, despite that his fragile mother (Tea Leoni) is unable to cope after her husband's death. Tom befriends 41-year-old mentally-retarded school janitor Pappass (Robin Williams). He also has a crush on rich classmate Melissa (Zelda Williams), but teases her in front of his buddies. Outside of class Tommy befriends a black woman (Erykah Badu) locked in solitary -- but with a convenient open window -- in a nearby jail, the "house of D" (detention) of the title. They have one beautiful scene where she sings and Tommy dances alone outside; otherwise her advice on Melissa triggers a series of disasters for our hero: robbery, expulsion, suicide, euthanasia, teenage runaway-hood, and dressing in bad '70s fashions.
Is it any good?
Let's just say putting the letter D in the title was not the best grade for this would-be growing-up nostalgia. It's got enough jumbled-up, lurid melodrama for several plots. It's framed as sort of a love note of wisdom, maturity, and advice for Tom's son (although the sleeping kid doesn't have to hear all this. Alas, we do). If any of the film's tearjerking pathos were believable for a minute it would be, well, unbelievable.
Anton Yelchin doesn't look or talk like an idealized, movie-cute child star, so picking him to embody the awkwardly precocious Tommy is one small virtue. Oddly, there's a certain family resemblance, facially and in the contrived snappy banter, between him and Robin Williams, who gives an unconvincing portrayal as Pappass, with excessive mugging and doubletalk. It may be significant that the one family in the whole movie that looks intact and functional -- father, mother, child -- is that of that of the adult Tom, over in Paris. How he got to that state of contentment, after such a turbulent adolescence, might have made a more interesting story.
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