A review of “House of D” by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: **

Rating: PG-13 for language and sexual references

Run Time: 1 hour, 37 minutes

 

 

David Duchovny is a lot of things (actor, father, Yale post-grad) but as a writer/director he has a lot of learn.

First lesson is to write what you know, or at least what you suspect will translate into a good onscreen story.  Duchovny’s mawkish coming-of-age tale looks great but lacks instinct by relying on melodramatic theatrics.

Duchovny himself is narrator Tom Warshaw who offers up the tale of his own adolescence (circa 1973) as a gift to his 13-year old son. Young Tom (Anton Yelchin) lives in a Greenwich Village brownstone with his mercurial mom (Duchovny’s wife Téa Leoni), who’s manic mood swings are the result of the untimely death of her husband to cancer.

Tom spends most of his screen time navigating the ins and outs of prep school and the thrilling hurt of his first crush (Zelda Williams as Melissa), both of which culminate in narrative pitfalls.  The emotional minefield known as the middle-school dance is the film’s best of show.

In true individual style Tom pals around with Pappas (Robin Williams), a mentally retarded janitor with a heart of gold (ugh) and spills his girl troubles to House of Detention resident cum lady of the night Bernadette (Erykah Badu).

In turns awkward and sincere, D is peppered with superfluous eccentrics and overblown sentiment better suited to a Hallmark Hall of Fame mini-series.  Williams’ gentle giant is uncomfortably reminiscent of his nauseating turn as the saccharine nonconformist Patch Adams.

Pat conclusion doesn’t get the job done but Yelchin offers a grown-up subtlety that carries through to the bitter end.