Stage and Cinema film and theatre reviews
 

Mischa Barton in Morgan J. Freeman’s Homecoming

 

HOME IS WHERE THE CRAZIES ARE

 

picture - HomecomingFilm Review

by William Gooch

published July 17, 2009

 

Homecoming

not rated

now playing in  New York, Los Angeles, and Louisville, KY

opens July 24 in Denver, CO and August 14 in Madison, WI

 

In Morgan J. Freeman’s thriller Homecoming, Mike (Matt Long) returns to his blue-collar small town home from Northwestern University with new sophisticated girlfriend Elizabeth (Jessica Stroup) for the big homecoming game where there will be a special ceremony retiring his football jersey. All things go according to plan until they run into Mike’s former cheerleader girlfriend Shelby (Mischa Barton) at her family-run bowling alley and diner. Although Mike has been away at Northwestern and has a new girlfriend, Shelby believes that she can rekindle their relationship. After a freakish road accident, an injured Elizabeth ends up in the care of vindictive Shelby, who will literally do anything to get her former beau back.

 

Although Homecoming is a spawned girlfriend thriller in the manner of Fatal Attraction andthe recent Obsessed, at its core, Homecoming brilliantly examines the insularity of small town America and what it means to be left behind in a blue-collar town that has very little to offer.  Freeman brilliantly posits Homecoming as a metaphor for what is currently happening in small towns all over this country. Residents of Mt. Bliss Township, especially Shelby, hold on to old football rituals and past loves and experiences because they are stuck in a town where are there few opportunities for personal or individual growth. They also strike out at the technologically advanced, more sophisticated world that has left them behind saddled with unending debt. (Consider all the foreclosed homes and loss of manufacturing jobs in small-to-medium towns all over this country.) As Mike’s cop cousin (Michael Landes) poignantly states, “ You are the only one who got out of this shit hole.” Mike and Elizabeth represent those who got away from the shit hole or never had to, and will soon be initiated into the gentrified class that small-town residents hold with such disdain.

 

Homecoming works on so many levels, but most stunningly in thatHomecoming looks nothing like a suspense thriller flick until about 35 minutes into the movie. Freeman sets up the tied-up-in-the-ex-girlfriend’s-house plot brilliantly, and as incredulous as this plot could be, because there is thorough scene detailing,Homecoming never seems convoluted.

 

 Mostly known for her recurring role as Marissa Cooper on the hit television showThe O.C., Mischa Barton shines in her portrayal of Shelby, the psychopathic ex-girlfriend. Although she has played saucy femme fatales in the past, this character fits her like a well-worn glove. Cinematic femme fatales are convincing only if there is a sympathetic element to the character. What is so genius about Mischa Barton's portrayal is that, as she morphs effortlessly from sympathetic to diabolical on a moment's notice, you are aware that her brilliant mind is plotting its next move.

 

As Elizabeth, Jessica Stroup gives a robust performance as the girlfriend who is not only out of her element but must also fight to survive the homecoming. And as the boyfriend Mike, Matt Long gives a detailed performance as the jock torn between what his life was and what his life is now becoming.

 

If Mike and Elizabeth had literally taken advice from Thomas Wolfe’s famous 1940 novel You Can’t Go Home Again, their lives would have been less complicated. For this these two unfortunate souls, eerily, there is no place like home.

 

williamgooch @ stageandcinema.com

 
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