Pictured Michael Cunningham.
Michael Cunningham, the openly gay, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of the book The Hours, his second novel, has written the screenplay for A Home At The End Of The World, which is based on his first. A Home details the arc of the relationship between Bobby and Jonathan (played as adults by current hot stuff Colin Farrell and newcomer, stage actor Dallas Roberts). The close-knit 1970s-era adolescent friendship of the two (and their burgeoning sexual attraction to each other) is watched with awe and understanding by Jonathan's lonely mother (Sissy Spacek) and then morphs into a brief halcyon '80s 'Bizarre Love Triangle' with the addition of Clare (Robin Wright Penn), the pretend-mad hat designer. Physical and emotional complications of all sorts ensue.
I haven't read either book by Cunningham but I did slog through the filmization of The Hours, the treatise on Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway with Nicole Kidman, Meryl Streep and Julianne Moore. I detested its smirking superiority, the dung-sounding Philip Glass score that heightened … nothing, the glamorization of depression. In fact, I almost missed Ed Harris dropping off the window ledge, because as he sat there droning on, I was looking over his head, trying to see what was in the next building.
So to say I wasn't exactly predisposed toward another film based on Cunningham material would be accurate. But what I always forget—and then always remember after watching a beautifully acted film like this one—is that movies that seem to be carved from our own lives can cloud the judgment, blur the instincts. That's especially true, of course, with 'relationship' movies.
Huge sections of the charming, sad and achingly funny A Home resonated with me like no movie I've seen this year. Is that because I became aware of my gay sexuality in the early '70s at the same time as Bobby and Jonathan? That a key scene features the music of my forever and ever personal musical Goddess, Laura Nyro? That I worked in the nightclub-art-'downtown' world in the 1980s, had friends involved in bisexual-friendship love triangles that dressed and acted just like these three?
Of course the answer is 'yes' but does that make this any better than other terrific recent movies about complex straight relationships—The Door In The Floor or Before Sunrise—both of which had no personal connection for me? I've thought about it in the week or so since I saw the film in a packed screening room and I've decided that the answer is no, not better, just more seductive, entrancing. To say that I have a teenage gayboy crush on A Home At The End Of The World would not be far off the mark. It's like the first week with a new lover and I can't get enough of this movie (my friends are sick of me praising it, already).
Stage director Michael Mayer, making his film debut, gets emotionally complex performances out of his three leads and is off to a good start. Farrell and Wright Penn, especially, do excellent work. Farrell's dark sensual physical beauty is the perfect cover up for insecure Bobby, the bisexual orphan who just wants to please everyone (and Erik Smith does equally terrific work as the teen-aged Bobby). Though there's no full frontal Farrell (and what healthy red-blooded American gay male isn't going to be disappointed by that) he's still— to bring back a preferred '80s term—'humpy.'
Wright Penn has the intensity of many of those pretend zany '80s artsy queens. She wears Beth Pasternak's gloriously outlandish '80s creations (and the equally splendid wigs) with an arch knowingness. And like many of the reigning divas of the period she has the luscious body and the aged, determined, granite face (think Tama Janowitz and Suzanne Bartsch). Roberts in his first screen role more than matches them but it is Spacek, as his mother—and then Bobby's adoptive one—who walks off with all her scenes—as she seems to do in all her movies.
A note must be made of the excellent original songs by Duncan Sheik and of course the glorious 'It's Gonna Take A Miracle' by Nyro and LaBelle is a Goddess-send. This sweet little movie is a bit of a miracle itself.
F. W. Murnau's 1927 silent masterpiece (and Oscar winner for 'Most Unique and Artistic Production') Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans, screens at the Music Box in a restored 35mm print, beginning July 30. With Janet Gaynor, who also won the Oscar, as the suffering farmer's wife and the hunky George O'Brien as her husband and would-be killer. The amazing cinematography and direction have been the blueprint for dozens of classics. A Special Edition DVD from Fox Classics and this large screen presentation are Highly Recommended. www.musicboxtheatre.com or (773) 871-6604 for info.
Runaway Divas, described as a 'rollicking fun, dead-on satire' by co-directors-stars (and Chicagoans) Monika Szewerniak and Aleksandra Hodowany, has its world premiere at the Gene Siskel Film Center July 30. Call (312) 846-2600 for information.
Film Related Event:
Puerto Rican Lesbian filmmaker Yasmina Cádiz screens Mama Said, her new short film, during a party celebration thrown by her X Chromosome Films (which supports women in film) that kicks off at 5 p.m. at the Red Line Lounge, 228 W. Chicago Ave. Sunday, Aug. 1. Latin Jazz Quartet Son Trinidad plays and leather goods by Credo will be silently auctioned off along with other raffle items. Le Colonial provides the complimentary hors d'oeuvres. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased at Chicago Filmmakers, 5243 N. Clark, or online or at www.xChromosomeFilms.com .