Saturday, October 7, 2017

1980 Week: Home Movies

Brian De Palma took a break from his successful career as a Hollywood director to teach filmmaking at Sarah Lawrence College, where he’d done graduate work in theater, and this project resulted from student exercises. Despite the involvement of marquee names including Kirk Douglas, who has a small recurring role, the smart move would have been to let Home Movies linger in the relative obscurity of academia, because it’s an embarrassment. Not only is Home Movies amateurish and silly, but it’s suffused with crass elements including scenes during which the white leading character wears blackface as a disguise. Credited to seven writers, including De Palma, the narrative follows Denis Byrd (Keith Gordon), a young man who takes a filmmaking course from “The Maestro” (Douglas). Egomaniacal and overbearing, “The Maestro” encourages Denis to use his eccentric family as fodder for a class project, so Denis tracks his philandering father (Vincent Gardenia) and his older brother, James (Gerrit Graham), an insufferable college professor who pummels his fiancĂ©e, Kristina (Nancy Allen), with absurd rules about abstinence, diet, and exercise. Somehow this resolves into Denis surreptitiously filming people having sex. The story is coherent, but the events are pointless and random and tacky. James throwing food at Kristina because she broke a rule. Denis rescuing a lingerie-clad Kristina from a rapist. “The Maestro” climbing a tree to shame Denis for doing exactly what “The Maestro” asked, filming real life. Wasted are Allen’s girl-next-door charm, Gardenia’s impeccable comic timing, and Graham’s intense weirdness. Plus, seeing as how De Palma extrapolated many story elements from his own life experiences, the odor of self-indulgence permeates.

Home Movies: LAME

1 comment:

Booksteve said...

Somewhere I have a full page ad for this that I ripped out of VARIETY. I adored Nancy Allen so I had to find it and a few years later, I rented it on VHS. It has its moments but overall, nothing special. Keith Gordon has gone on to be a very successful director in spite of watching DePalma helm this.