When I watched Lost in Translation in the theatre, I was squirming.
The long shots of Scarlett Johannson bored stiffless in her hotel room bored the hell out of me too. Which is part of the appeal of the movie — Sofia Coppolla wanted to make it clear just how stifling Charlotte’s boredom was.
I didn’t actually like the movie till after I left the theatre. Thinking back on the little details — the inaudible dialog between Charlotte and Bob Harris at the end, the fluster Bob feels over choosing carpet swatches over long distance, the stark difference between the night Bob spends with Charlotte and the one he spends with the jazz singer (Catherine Lambert).
I won’t go so far to say A Home at the End of the World achieves a similar effect, but the film’s storyline might leave a viewer pondering the nature of attraction.
A Home at the End of the World deals with a love traingle between Jonathan, a gay man, his female roommate Clare and Jonathan’s best friend from high school, Bobby. Each finds in the other two elements of the perfect mate, and all three attempt to create a family on their own terms.
Try as they might, three is a crowd, and when Bobby (Collin Farrell) is faced with choosing between the mother of his child and his brother by bond, he stays with the person he knows he will eventually lose. (I’m trying hard not to reveal too many plot elements.)
There’s a lot of puzzlement over Farrell’s star appeal, but he does a really good job giving Bobby an innocence shaped by loss. At times, it’s easy to think Bobby toked a bit too much, but Farrell lets the audience know his character’s watchfulness informs his actions.
The Princess Bride is a perpetual syndicated TV favorite, but it’s nice not to recognize Robin Wright Penn as Buttercup when she plays the free-minded Clare. Maybe it’s the pink hair.
There’s a sense, though, that the story moves so fast, that it doesn’t give enough time to sense the dynamic between the three protagonists. Clare’s affection for Jonathan is spelled out at various points in the film but is never really demonstrated. The bond between Jonathan and Bobby blurs between platonic and romantic — especially as teenagers — but it doesn’t quite set up Bobby’s choice at the end.
As a result, A Home at the End of the World doesn’t give much to chew on after the final scene. The cast puts on a great performance — including Sissy Spacek and the unrecognizable Matt Frewer (Max Headroom?) — and the characters offer a striking picture of an alternatively-nuclear family.
But unlike Lost in Translation, A Home at the End of the World doesn’t sweat the details long enough to allow ideas to blossom in the viewer’s mind. And it could have.