House of D
Dir. David Duchovny. 2004.
PG-13. 96mins. Anton Yelchin, Robin Williams, David Duchovny, Tea Leoni, Erykah Badu.
Williams plays a mentally retarded janitor in this movie, and as everyone knows, retarded folks are fonts of poetic wisdom. This one is so lovably wise that you'd scarcely guess he was retarded at all. The giveaway is that he measures the passage of time by "sleeps," as in "How many sleeps until I see you again, Tommy?"
Tommy (Yelchin) is the 13-year-old protagonist of this coming-of-age tale written and directed by X-Files star Duchovny. A scholarship student at an East Village Catholic school, Tommy is the janitor's best friend, until the kid's budding interest in girls comes between them. Luckily, Tommy has another friend, a black hooker with a heart of gold (Badu) who showers him with pearls of wisdom from the window of her cell in the titular house of detention. But Tommy loses his scholarship by following her advice, which leads to a tragedy that sends Tommy running off to Paris, where he grows up to be a sensitive artiste (Duchovny).
Material this ultrapoignant demands comic relief, and here Duchovny demonstrates admirable thrift by recycling each joke several times. He gets especially good mileage from puns on "boner" and the French word for happiness, "bonheur."
The boy-to-man theme may be generic, but Duchovny has put a deeply personal stamp on it and crafted a film unlike any other. Would somebody please shoot me before he does it again?—Cliff Doerksen