HOMEMAKERS Lacks Direction But Speaks To Lost Souls

Readhead Review: Homemakers

Homemakers finds part-time Austin-based punk singer Irene McCabey, played by Rachel McKeon, off to claim her inheritance in Pittsburgh—after her grandfather passes away, she is left with an abandoned and dilapidated three-story house. She runs into a long-lost cousin (turned drinking partner) named Cam, and they attempt to restore the house together, or demolish it—it is, at least initially, troublingly unclear which, or what Irene really even wants. She says she wants to sell it, but she grows to enjoy the kind of domesticity she finds in the forgotten home.

This film may be a diamond in the rough, but it is too rough to ever truly shine to its fullest potential, not to mention that it requires quite a bit of patience and effort from the audience—so concerned with the act and angst of private destruction and debauchery, the film itself becomes strained, repetitive and eventually weary of its own rampaging. That is not to say this film does not have its positive qualities, and those qualities may be worth the viewing for many. It won the Audience Award at this year’s Independent Film Festival in Boston, and it may deserve that accolade—just with certain audiences far more than with others, perhaps.

McKeon is energetic and committed in the role of Irene and gives a multi-faceted performance, but for what that is worth, the character of Irene can come across as frustratingly childish and, above all, annoying. I found it hard to sympathize with someone whose shenanigans ranged so jarringly from things like drawing obscenities on the walls, spouting vodka from her mouth onto Cam like a fountain, and thrashing anything remotely breakable, to actually exhibiting real, raw human emotions. I respected that her status as a lesbian was not at the forefront of her identity as a character, but her human relationships were still more compelling than when she was putting on her rebellious acts—it’s respectful to see an independent, gay woman living her life freely, but not necessarily enjoyable once we see her struggling between doing what she wants to do and doing the opposite of what is expected of her just for the sake of doing so, especially because those two things do start to feel very disparate somehow as the film progresses.

For what little actual plot many such indie films boast, this film seemed all the more jumbled, disjointed, jagged and confusing, probably because we’re always left to wonder what Irene really wants, what she is truly motivated by. She is developed slowly but surely, and her greatest range of emotions does emerge more towards the film’s end—but even then, it is the rampaging, poorly behaved child inside of her that takes over once more, and the film knows no end to its own tendency to break things. What could have otherwise felt cathartic about that very act (particularly in those rare moments where it does seem like something that was pent up in Irene is finally being released), instead feels routine and uneventful and unsatisfying.

I did love the way Healey shoots and uses Pittsburgh though, and the city seems a perfect fit for Irene. The skyline and even some smaller, grittier aspects of this landscape are set to emotionally pertinent music. Between those shots, the soundtrack, and the set design, replete with crumbling infrastructures and Irene’s kitschy, haphazard construction attempts, if there’s anything I did love about the film, it would be how textured it feels—it is a film that is tangibly felt, physically and palpably, meant to be experienced as opposed to enjoyed, maybe. I merely wish that the film’s emotional resonance had matched more consistently and more early on than it did—for me personally it felt like too little too late. Irene is a character type we are all probably familiar with, and yet Mckeon makes her feel realistic and honest. But that wasn’t enough for me to get behind some of the film’s events (and thereby most of Irene’s actions) which never felt quite as justifiable or understandable.

The film opened yesterday at Brooklyn’s Northside Festival for its NYC premiere, and I think the film will speak to those audiences fairly well. I can confidently recommend the film to those who may be better suited to receive its messages of independence and desire, to those who have had to make similar choices as Irene has, or to those who perhaps have similar personalities, professions or desires, and who wish to do nothing more than to destroy and reconstruct and figure things out. For me, I felt that the film had its own sort of figuring out to do too; the film is no less stunted by its own immaturity, and yet it reaches mostly halfheartedly for something at least resembling stability. For many, the immaturity is enough of a journey, but for others like me, a little more stability could have gone a long way.

Director: Colin Healey
Starring: Rachel McKeon, Jack Culbertson
Rating: 2.5 out of 5 broken bottles of alcohol.

Sara majors in Film Studies and Media & Communication at Muhlenberg College. Her favorite genre is horror but she loves learning, writing and talking about all kinds of movies and all forms of entertainment. She has interned with Film Forum and Tribeca Film, both in her native NYC where she hopes to find work in criticism, marketing, distribution, or festival programming post-grad. Her blog and associated Twitter were created with the intention of being more involved and aware of happenings in the film and television industries, as well as to practice writing about pop culture in an academic but friendly and funny way.