REVIEW: House of D [2004]

“I need the Dad face one more time”

David Duchovny has crafted a beautifully touching film with House of D. It is a coming-of-age story of sorts as his character narrates what happened to him around his thirteenth birthday. Being that his own son, in France, is now turning into a teenager, he feels that the time is finally right to tell his wife the reality of his past. Much happened to the young Tom Warshaw in the days leading to what should have been a joyous date. He was a standout student in his private Catholic school, hanging with his best friend Pappas, his neighbor who was mentally retarded and employed as a janitor at the school. While being 40 years old, Pappas was basically a 13 year old child as well. Once Tom discovered the fairer sex and began hanging out with a girlfriend, his friend realized he just couldn’t follow. Emotions run high as Pappas tries to win back the one person who really treats him as a human being by stealing a bike the two have been saving money for. This one event creates a snowball effect as Tom’s life spirals out of control, causing him to need to grow up much quicker than he should have to, making tough decisions which ultimately lead to his life in Paris as a new man.

House of D is the feature debut for Duchovny as a writer/director; he proves himself admirably in both positions. The story is nicely balanced between narration and dialogue. We are shown the time of Tom’s life that really created him. While the story itself is well-written and uses a believable story arc, making what could have been clichéd contrivances work in the final scope of things, it is the acting that really drives the film. It appears Duchovny is an actor’s director, getting amazing performances from stalwart thespians as well as capable newcomers. Téa Leoni is great as Tom’s mother who has lost her husband and is working as a nurse to try and bring her son up right, yet can’t shake the void in her heart left by the loss; Robin Williams deftly handles the challenges in playing Pappas as he doesn’t overdo it, (besides the unnecessary fake teeth), this isn’t a showy performance, but instead subtle and emotive; Frank Langella does well as the school’s reverend, adding a solid disciplinary figure with some nice comic moments; and relative newcomer—I believe this is his first starring role— Anton Yelchin who balances the angst and premature responsibility for those around him to perfection. Yelchin reminded me of Emille Hirsch, in appearance and personality as both play the older than their years character while still retaining the necessary youth, and both star in the forthcoming Alpha Dog which has garnered good buzz along with an intriguing trailer.

Singer Erykah Badu provides a breakthrough role here as well. She has acted in a couple films before, but here she really shines as Tom’s guide on high. Imprisoned in the titular House of D, her voice comes down to Yelchin’s character with advice among the other prostitutes yelling to their pimps on the street. Helping with girl problems and issues of respecting those you love, Badu delivers her lines with purpose and meaning through the bar cells with only a mirror shard to see him by. When she teaches Tom how to dance one dusky evening, she provides the music for which to gain rhythm from. The scene is light and touching, sowing the seeds of their relationship and the impact she had, although briefly, on his life. This distant bond culminates in a wonderful moment during the dénouement between her and Duchovny where the weight of his past is finally lifted from his shoulders.

House of D 7/10 | ★ ★ ★

[1] David Duchovny (as Tom Warshaw) in House of D. Photo credit: Larry Watson
[2] Robin Williams, Zelda Williams and Anton Yelchin in House of D. Photo credit: Larry Watson


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