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Friday, Sept. 18, 2009

'Homecoming'

More corn and it could have got a B-grade


A favorite aunt of mine used to try one diet fad after another and upon the failure of each one, pull out her old standby excuse: "Marie Antoinette worried over her weight her whole life. In which case there's just no help for the rest of us!" Never mind the lack of logic, I believed her. Now a similar conviction assails me when watching "Homecoming (released in Japan as "The Watchers"). Mischa Barton — "O.C." beauty queen — is the centerpiece of this grisly tale of jilted jealousy gone haywire and through it all I could only recall my auntie. I mean, Barton in the role of a woman who's alone, up all night in disheveled nonglory, simpering, swearing vengeance on a guy who rejected her like a bag of wet trash left out on the wrong day of the week. Well, really. We may as well relax girls, because there's just no help for the rest of us.

Homecoming Rating: (2 out of 5)
Star Star Star Star Star
MOVIES
Vengeful vixen: Mischa Barton in "Homecoming" © 2008 HOMECOMING THE MOVIE LLC

Director: Morgan J. Freeman
Running time: 88 minutes
Language: English
Opens Sept. 26
[See Japan Times movie listing]

Directed by Morgan J. Freeman (no relation to the actor), "Homecoming" has the makings of a spectacular B-movie, but sadly lacks the guts necessary to push itself onto a truly cheesy level of existence.

Barton, who plays a small-town barkeep named Shelby, comes off as a mere gal unhinged when she could have been grossly, gorgeously deranged. Tsk. Apart from the fact that Shelby has probably watched "Misery" on her DVD player one too many times, there's not much in her behavior that's inspiring in a horrific way and the story hovers indecisively between Shelby's relationship woes and her not very original stalker antics (Kathy Bates should have stepped in to give a tutorial) while the camera never misses an opportunity to zero in on her cleavage and stay there for as long as decently possible. On the one hand, how could a woman this hot be treated like this? On another hand, fairly quickly into the story there comes a tremendous urge to stamp "He's just not that into you!" on Shelby's forehead.

But at least Shelby has a lot of zing and cuteness going for her while her love object, Mike (Matt Long), is the type of clueless lout you never want to meet in real life. In high school Mike was captain of the football team and prom king, going out with Shelby the prom queen and earmarked for a smashing future (yawn). Now playing college football at Northwestern University, Mike returns home in hammy glory with a girlfriend on his arm (and the whole, football-centric town gathers to greet their local hero and cheer) — choosing to ignore the effect such a scene may have on his still love-struck ex. Even klutzier is Mike's willingness to reunite with Shelby and introduce her to his current love, Elizabeth (Jessica Stroup), right in Shelby's bar-cum-bowling alley, with her presiding over the party and carrying drink trays. There's Shelby, passing around the beer and telling Mike that she's decided to make additions to her house, to accommodate the "babies we'll be having." There's Mike, scratching his head and wondering what the hell could that mean?

One dumb decision leads to another and Mike and his terrifically laid back sherrif cousin, Billy (with this guy as law-enforcer, it's a wonder the town wasn't plundered and destroyed long ago), drop Elizabeth off at a motel so she can rest and be fresh to meet Mike's parents in the morning. But the place is fully booked and Elizabeth finds herself walking 5 km to the next motel, her iPhone inexplicably refusing to work. A car brushes past her, Elizabeth takes a fall, the driver steps out and who should it be but her blonde nemesis Shelby. From here on Elizabeth spends the rest of the story with a broken leg, incarcerated in Shelby's bedroom which is covered floor to ceiling with photos and memorabilia of high school and Mike. The decor alone (never mind the gaping plot contrivances) would drive a woman to the depths of insanity.

Still, Shelby turns out to be the one beacon of light (color: shocking pink) in this terrifically antiseptic suburbia-land where everyone apparently goes to bed at 9:00 p.m. and are oblivious to the wails of agony heard from her house. And Mike feels perfectly at home here? It may be the best thing for Elizabeth if she never does get to meet his parents.


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