Home Movie Movie Review
Documentary filmmaker Chris Smith (American Movie, American Job) tackles the issues of home and stability (in the literal sense) in his new film Home Movie - a collective examination of five of the most eccentric houses spread throughout America. The film takes an intimate approach in presenting a mosaic of colorful characters and their approaches to making a house a home. The end result is a plethora of engaging diatribes on the meaning of "home," delivered in grand passion by the members of the various households.
In the suburbs of Chicago, we meet Ben Skora's and his "all-electronic" home in which the most inanimate of objects - such as a soap dish, a toilet, and even the patio furniture - come to life in response to their owner's flick of a button. Outside Topeka, Kansas, we visit the home of Ed and Diana Peden. Did I mention their "home" is a retired missile silo? Next up, we brave the alligator-infested waters of the bayou to visit Bill Tregle - the Shaolin monk of simplistic living on a bayou houseboat that can sleep ten comfortably. In Hawaii, Japanese cult actress Linda Beech and her "tree house" are found in a dense jungle valley complete with a natural waterfall and a strange houseboy who plays a mean didgeridoo. In the suburbs of California, we visit cat-oholics Bob Walker and Francis Mooney, who live in America's largest cat box, equipped with cat paths built in the walls and mouse effigies to ward off unwanted rodents. You can almost smell it from the theater.
By presenting a crisscross pattern of dialogues, attitudes, and emotions, Smith constructs a concise statement of the definition of home within current American society. The wisdom of Bill Tregle, sitting on his deck in the middle of bayou, conveys a deep spirituality of life's grand plan without the obnoxious idiot box in the background or the roar of crosstown traffic drowning him out. The gee-whiz attitude of Ben Skora, scooting around in his all-in-one easy chair while controlling the blinds and mood lighting of his domicile conveys how ingenious America can be. The new-age mysticism of the Pedens represents the rebirth and revitalization of America's past. The cat-oholics define the kookiness and commitment to the hokiest of hobbies.
Despite a short running time of sixty minutes, Home Movie represents a strong candidate for next year's Oscar competition for best documentary -- a warm, humanistic examination of the definition of a man (or woman's) castle borne from their dreams and desires.