HOME AT THE END OF THE WORLD, A
(director/writer: Michael Mayer; screenwriter: from the screenplay by Michael Cunningham/Mr. Cunningham; cinematographer: Enrique Chediak; editors: Andrew Marcus/Lee Percy; music: Duncan Sheik; cast: Colin Farrell (Bobby), Dallas Roberts (Jonathan Glover), Sissy Spacek (Alice Glover), Robin Wright Penn (Clare), Erik Smith (teenage Bobby), Harris Allan (teenage Jonathan), Matt Frewer (Ned Glover), Andrew Chalmers (Bobby Morrow, nine-year-old), Ryan Donowho (Carlton Morrow), Asia Vieira (Emily); Runtime: 96; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Tom Hulce/Christine Vachon/Katie Roumel/Pamela Koffler/John Wells/John N. Hart Jr./Jeffrey Sharp; Warner Independent Pictures; 2004)
“Good will is not enough to make this a pleasant movie experience.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Warning: spoilers throughout.
Too many things about first-time director Michael Mayer’s period piece drama A Home At The End Of The World seems forced. The characters are stiffly portrayed, it conveys a nostalgia for the revolutionary Sixties that lacks intensity and conviction, and the story flits from one decade to another without covering anything in depth. It’s based on a screenplay by Michael Cunningham from his 1990 novel The Hours. This plot driven film doesn’t work, while in contrast the book was imaginatively written and brought out the peculiarity of the characters in a way the film never could. Though film prides itself on its decent message about tolerance over sexual choices, its good will is not enough to make this a pleasant movie experience.
“Home” opens in the Cleveland suburbs in 1967. Bobby Morrow (Andrew Chalmers) is the nine-year-old brother of hippie teenager Carlton, who is having sex in his bedroom while his little brother is standing in the open doorway. Upon seeing Bobby the girl takes off out the window, but the cool Carlton (Ryan Donowho) takes Bobby into his bed and reassures him making love is a beautiful thing. Later Carlton drops a tab of acid with Bobby, bringing the kid into the Sixties so-called mindset of love, drugs and revolution. Soon after at a house party, the stoned Carlton dies in a freak accident where he crashes through a sliding glass door. The film then moves to 1974 and Bobby (Erik Smith) is in high school, where his best friend is the insecure Jonathan (Harris Allan). The two become inseparable in a relationship built on brotherhood and romantic interests. Jonathan’s square but sweet parents treat Bobby with kindness, giving him a stability he never had in his own home. Bobby is viewed as an innocent who can do no wrong even when he rebels. It is because he’s so genuine that he’s able to turn Jonathan’s mother Alice Glover (Sissy Spacek) onto smoking grass and the music of Laura Nyro. When Bobby’s father suddenly dies, his mother passed away a year earlier, he’s taken in by the Glovers in an unofficial adoption and lives there even while Jonathan goes off to college. At 24, Bobby (Colin Farrell) is still a virgin and working as a baker in the Cleveland area. When Jonathan’s parents retire to Arizona, Bobby comes to live with Jonathan (Dallas Roberts) in the East Village of NYC in 1982. Jonathan is openly gay, but is living with the older free-spirited Clare (Robin Wright Penn). The three bond in a bohemian relationship of rock music, drugs, making the punk rock night scene, and find happiness in their unconventional lifestyle. Things change when Clare falls in love with Bobby and Jonathan in a jealous rage goes to live with his parents in Phoenix, failing to understand that she also loves him. The three get together again when Jonathan’s father dies and the couple go to Arizona for the funeral. Clare announces she’s pregnant, prompting the three to reunite and live in a big house in Woodstock (filmed in Toronto). Bobby opens up a bakery/restaurant called Home and things are going well, but in a movie like this happiness is not meant to last. Clare senses that Bobby would rather be with Jonathan after watching them dance together, and she takes a powder for Philadelphia with her daughter Rebecca. The film ends with Bobby and Jonathan in a loving relationship, but with the specter of AIDS in the horizon.
The film looks at what we mean by love, commitment and loyalty, and leaves the message that it’s a good thing to go through life with a trusting and open attitude in this fragile world where death can come at any time. It tests the waters to see if the hippie declarations that swept across the country in the Sixties could still float in the Woodstock of the 1980s, where the revolutionary ideals had its most glorious moment. I can’t argue with the love message, but I found the narrative awkwardly worked out and the film boring. It never engaged me in its weakly drawn-out emotional dramatics. Every emotion revealed seemed to be announced beforehand without any subtlety, as if the filmmaker assumed the viewer would not be smart enough to get it without such prompting.
REVIEWED ON 8/31/2004 GRADE: C https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/