A Home of Our Own
1993 Directed by Tony Bill. Starring Kathy Bates, Edward Furlong, Soon-Teck Oh, Tony Campisi.
REVIEWED By Louis Black, Fri., Nov. 12, 1993
Sometimes producer, sometimes actor and sometimes director Tony Bill (this time he directed) has terrific taste in material. Especially in the films he directsr, Bill's works are all loosely focused slice-of-life films that tell very human stories. My Bodyguard, Five Corners, Crazy People and, now, A Home of Our Own, are not what you would consider mainstream films. He also has a terrific knack for casting. This film is filled with interesting talent (as his film's always are). The problem is that Bill seems to have no idea of, or at least no idea how to convey, real life. His films are all obvious fictions, clunky failures; they don't fit together or flow logically from one scene to another. This film, set in the early Sixties, about a tough independent single mother (Bates) raising her brood of six is exactly the kind of film for which I'm a sucker. Fired from her job after her boss sexually harasses her, broke and with her kids slipping towards juvenile delinquency she decides to pack up the brood and leave Los Angeles. They make it as far as Idaho where a never-finished, falling-down shack on the side of the road is the inspiration for the home she wants for herself and her family. She persuades the friendly Japanese-American farmer (Oh) to sell her the land in return for her housekeeping services. Although broke, the whole family works together to realize the dream of having a house of their own. The family never really seems a family, we come to really know less than half of them and Bill is constantly offering up scenes as didactic pieces of information about the characters that provide no illumination at all. We don't know these people. Each and every character is played completely stereotypically. There is no subtlety or nuance, what you see is what you get -- you have to be completely brain-dead not to know that her new manager at some point or another is also going to attack her. It isn't that A Home of Our Own broadcasts its punches, it's not that subtle. This is clearly a fiction, a Hollywood structure, hollow and empty. Bates's performance as the mother, crucial to the film, in keeping with the artificiality of the project, is completely acted. We don't believe this is the beleaguered mother of six, we think this is Kathy Bates acting like the beleaguered mother of six. There just is no soul, a series of Reader's Digest actions (“my most unforgettable character,” “real life crisis”) and cheap emotional confrontations between characters we've come to know very little about. Unfortunately in the world of Bill the distance between the creative idea and the finished film is all artifice.