Take every awful indie coming-of-age movie cliché, cram it into one film, fill it with terrible dialogue and bored-looking actors and you are starting to approach the disaster that is Gavin Wisen’s Homework. If someone were making a parody of the modern art-house coming-of-age film, this would be it. Despite a relatively-short 84 minute runtime, Homework is an interminable slog as we’re forced to suffer yet another movie about a privileged teenage who’s life is so perfect that he’s forced to conjure his own misfortune.
George (Freddie Highmore) is a slacker that has come upon a wacky reason not to do his homework: fatalism. Since he’s going to die anyway, his trigonometry assignments don’t seem that important. Why is he so depressed? Does he come from a broken homelife? Not really. He lives in a nice brownstone in New York City, but his stepfather is kind of a jerk. Does he have some dark secret in his past? Who knows. He was birthed into this world arty and misunderstood. He was also blessed with eye-rollingly bad dialogue such as:
“I’m afraid of life.”
“I’m a misanthrope, but not by choice.”
“I’m allergic to hormones.”
“I’m in love with you. I always have been.”
Highmore doesn’t have a prayer of convincingly spouting lines like these, and he deserves credit for not wincing while he said them.
While George is busy doodling and being uninteresting, he begins a friendship with Sally (Emma Roberts), but starts to fall for her because she’s pretty and…she’s pretty. I would call her character paper-thin but that’s insult to the thickness of paper and the fine people who make it. George also begins a relationship with Dustin, a professional artist (Michael Angarano). Their “relationship” consists of two scenes where Dustin gives George advice.
Homework could exist as a scathing parody of the indie coming-of-age film, but instead it serves as a laundry list of the worst qualities the genre has to offer. It takes over an hour for the film to find a real conflict for George, and by that point we’re too far gone to care. Wisen gives his debut feature no voice, no personality, and no reason to exist.
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After the success of sex lies and videotape in 1989, it is hardly surprising that another movie should appear sooner or later, dealing with sex, lies, and indeed, videotape. This, the second feature from Mexican director Hermosillo, deals with just that, beginning with a young woman, Virginia, (Rojo) setting up a videocamera discreetly underneath her living room table and waiting for the arrival of Marcelo (Alonso), a man she had an affair with four years previously.
When he arrives it is obvious Virginia is out to seduce him for the camera of which he is blissfully unaware using every ruse she can to make sure he stays in the living room, and Marcelo is a willing participant, putting up little resistance, with the only hitch in Virginias seduction being that neither of the pair have remembered to buy any condoms. And so the movie progresses and then unfortunately plummets, moving from an interesting look at role reversal and male vanity to a soft porn flick as Virginia finally gets her way.
The mystery lies in why this relatively reserved woman is intent on seducing a man on camera the only indication being when she reveals she is taking a television workshop course and is working on her final project. The whole story is seen through the eyes of the video camera in one continuous scene, meaning that sometimes all you can see is two pairs of shoes accompanied by disembodied voices, a technique which works surprisingly well but is spoilt when Hermosillo abandons all attempts of a storyline in favour of 15 minutes of explicit bedroom gymnastics filmed by the motionless camera. Although slightly redeemed by a twist in the tale at the end, this should be filed under Lost Potential.
The whole of Homework is filmed in one long continuous take which was the longest achievement until 'Russian Ark' in 2002. It's a risky manoeuvre and here it doesn't really work to great effect. With highly erratic characters, it's difficult to relate to them but with a twist in its tail, the film remains distinctly average.