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Where The Heart Is MAG
John Boorman, of "Hope and Glory" fame, went wacky with "Where the Heart Is," which was lost in the shuffle last spring in the theatres, and now attempts to find an audience on video.
Set in New York, this is an ensemble film about a demolition engineer (Dabney Coleman) who gives his three spoiled kids the boot because they are driving him nuts.
He dumps them in a Brooklyn tenement with $2250, and tells them to get jobs. Quickly this film begins to deteriorate with the unrelenting weirdness of the children, but humor, which is usually ironic, saves it from going overboard.
The three children, with Uma Thurman as Daphne, Suzy Amis as Chloe and David Hewlett as Jimmy are all artists. Their trendy lives are all portrayed as caricatures, so it is hard to feel empathy for any of them. Crispin Glover steals the show as Lionel, a heterosexual who is posing as a homosexual to make it in the fashion designing business. He gives his quirky character a fresh appeal, as he's done in all his films.
To survive, each sibling recruits a tenant. Suzy gets Lionel, Jimmy gets the entrepreneur, Harry Chaykin, and Daphne gets a down-and-out hobo magician, (Christopher Plummer). There is also the annoying psychic (Sheila Kelly), whose character is not at all funny.
Within about a minute, their household is thriving, although only Harry contributes financially, paying the rent.
The script, by John and Telsche Boorman rarely attempts to be realistic. Some scenes are sly visual jokes that are easily missed, and some parts drag when they try too hard to be funny.
The best scene is when the gang abandons their foreclosed building. They depart in a wagon reminiscent of the old West, only it's being towed by Harry's Porsche through the streets of New York. This scene best represents the warped view of cliche Boorman uses.
Another big plus is the artwork by Chloe (painted by Tinna Woollard). The art is called trompe-l'oeil (trick of the eye), which uses a human model covered with body paint and blended into a painted background.
Most of the time, the attempt to be ultra-stylish fails. The whole film feels exactly like the New York art life, as seen by someone who knows very little about it. I still enjoyed the lack of realism. It felt a bit like the party scenes that were so common in Fredrico Fellini's "La Dolce Vita" and "Juliet of the Spirits." The camera is never stationary, and it travels from person to person, always conversing or arguing. It works best when the whole cast is in the same room.
The ending is rather implausible and tries to tie up every loose end in three minutes.
The whole "New York" feeling is lost when they leave for the country, and it's hard to believe that any of them would be happy outside the city.
Home is where the heart is, according to John Boorman. This film doesn't succeed in making me believe this. The theme is weak and the title poorly chosen. But see it anyway. It is a call back to the '60s, when this sort of "family" existed and it's worth seeing for Crispin Glover's great performance and the terrific artwork by Tinna Woollard. Get it soon, before it becomes lost in the crowd at the local video store. n