Before you accuse David Duchovny of overt arrogance by naming his film “House of D”— the D stands for “detention,” not Duchovny. “House of D,” directed, written and performed by the former “X-Files” star, is a charming tale of unconditional love and exploration of the human condition.
Duchovny plays Tom Warshaw, a bemused American artist in Paris who must reveal to his French family his true identity as a New Yorker who ran from his past. His story, as he narrates, “starts where all boys’ stories start: with their mom.”
Viewers are welcomed into Tom’s childhood home in the 1970s, a quaint apartment complex with his bereft chain-smoking mother (Tea Leoni), and the quieting somberness left by her recently deceased spouse. Young Tom (possibly the next Patrick Fugit, Anton Yelchin) assumes the position of man of the house by delivering meat around town with his mentally disabled buddy Pappas (Robin Williams).
Tom is on the brink of teen hood. Whereas he once sought refuge in the Oedipus complex his mother so carefully forged between them (her intrusion on him urinating and showering is unsettling) Tom soon turns to a female inmate at the House of Detention near his neighborhood. Though not a flawless film, “House of D” is a valiant effort on Duchovny’s behalf. His own acting is too one-dimensional and his script sometimes drowns in its syrupy sweetness. But his directorial skills are the apex of his triptych of talent. A sky-bound shot where Yelchin’s tears drip on the camera offers a unique and stirring perspective of heartache. On the other hand, a simple straight-on shot of the Reverend Dean of Tom’s alma mater (the venerable Frank Langella) solemnly carrying a disco ball to the school dance is laugh-out-loud amusing. The truth is out there, and it is that imagery is everything in Duchovny’s film. “House of D” recreates the uneasiness of adolescence divinely.
Whether Tom is owning up to the fact that he has “small balls” (Lady assures him women prefer his type) or is trying to get his French teacher to say dirty words, you will squirm and smile because you’ve been there.
The script is heavy on sentimentality but also on humor and honesty. It’s courageous because it tells it like it is—“Life is hard!” And with its keen understanding of the perils of puberty, a cohesive cast and a promising directorial turn by Duchovny, it is hard not to adore “House of D.”