Published May 01, 2005In David Duchovny's directorial debut, House of D, he plays Thomas, an American artist in Paris who dwells on the events of his 13th year. Set in Greenwich Village, circa 1973, it tells the story of his adolescence, a tale of mischief and first love that culminates in tragedy and is ultimately meant to explain the man he has become. The movie, however, can be easily summed up in one sentence: Robin Williams plays a retarded janitor.
Marred by a rambling voiceover at one end and a pat therapeutic resolution on the other, the film has a few tender moments but it is mostly a maudlin exercise with a counterfeit heart. Young Thomas (Anton Yelshin) Tommy, in flashback has recently lost his father to cancer and must navigate the treacherous waters of prep school on his own as his depressed mother seems far more concerned with spending time smoking and hiding the effects of pill binges.
In between, there is light in the form of Papass (Williams), the school janitor and Tommy's fellow butcher store employee who is part surrogate brother, part best-friend, and who can sagely remark that "Places change like people change," and yet can't restrain himself from blurting out things like "I have a huge penis." Go figure.
When Tommy and Pappas hatch a plan to buy a bicycle, they hide their cash outside the title alert Women's House of Detention, where an inmate, Lady (Erykah Badu), gives Tommy advice on how to score drugs, get with "chicks" (her word, not mine) and deal with plot complications that would rival the most over-plundered after-school special.
Duchovny has a tin-ear for dialogue and makes some questionable directorial choices, chief among them being the casting his wife, Téa Leoni, as Tommy's mom (paging Dr. Freud!) and giving the okay to Williams to don one of the most ridiculous mouthpieces ever to appear on celluloid. The film's only authentic performance comes in the form of William's daughter, Zelda, who plays Tommy's love interest with authentic heart, something this film could have used a little more of. (Maple)