Perhaps the folks at ThinkFilms have a sense of humor as they are
releasing LOVERBOY over the weekend that marks Father's Day. The film,
directed by Kevin Bacon and adapted by Hannah Shakespeare from a novel
by Victoria Redel, centers on the unhealthy relationship between a mother
Emily Stoll (Kyra Sedgwick) and her six-year old son Paul (Dominic Scott Kay),
whom she calls "Loverboy."
Emily is a character all right. Raised by two narcissists (portrayed
in flashbacks by Bacon and Marissa Tomei), she has been left independently
wealthy. The only thing she's ever aspired to is being a mother, and as she
narrates in voiceover, she sought out numerous partners for one-night stands
with the hope of accidentally getting pregnant. There's a hot guy in a library
(Nick Gregory), a college student, and a musician (John Legend, acting under
the name John Stephens). She does conceive, but miscarries in an airport
waiting lounge. So she becomes bitter and swears off men. Until she meets
Paul (Campbell Scott), a married businessman. After their single night together,
she becomes pregnant with Loverboy.
As her child grows, Emily bonds and becomes overly protective. She
freaks if anyone else gets too close to her son. We don't actually see what
she does to a real estate agent who gets too close, but homicide might
not be out of the question. At least, the audience isn't sure. That's the thing
about Emily -- she seems to have more than a few screws loose. We see
what may have made her that way in flashbacks, in which Emily is portrayed
by Sosie Bacon, Sedgwick's daughter with the director. Her parents (Bacon
and Marissa Tomei) are eccentric lovebirds and treat Emily as an afterthought.
The ministrations of a neighbor, Mrs. Harker (an excellent Sandra Bullock
in an effective cameo), are the only seeming kindnesses Emily receives.
But she's also abandoned by all the adults in her life: Mrs. Harker moves
and leaves no forwarding address and Emily's parents commit suicide
together after her father has been diagnosed with a terminal illness.
That sense of abandonment drives Emily -- she craves a child on
whom she can shower her affection. The problem is -- that kind of love
smothers the child. Eventually young Paul wants to go to school. The
more he resists her, the tighter the hold Emily tries to maintain.
On the page, it was up to the reader to decide whether Emily
was crazy or just overprotective. Sedgwick tries to balance the many
sides of the character, but eventually Emily becomes completely unhinged
-- a scene with Paul's principal and schoolteacher clinches it. The actress
tries to breathe life into this contrary and sometimes unlikable character
and it's to her credit that there are times that she almost succeeds. But
the screenplay undercuts her. Bacon's direction is uneven, particularly in the
cartoon-like flashbacks. Young Dominic Scott Kay is a real find though,
and credit should be given to the late Phyllis Huffman who served as
casting director on the project. The film also has a veritable who's who
of indie actors, including Blair Brown, Matt Dillon, Oliver Platt, Melissa
Errico, and Carolyn McCormick.
While I found some things to admire in LOVERBOY,ultimately
one cannot help but think that Emily is nothing more than a psychotic
inflicting a terrible form of child abuse on her son. It's a tragedy to be
certain, because it is all done in the name of love.
MPAA Rating: R for sexuality
Running time: 86 mins.
Viewed at the Broadway Screening Room.
|© 2006 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.