Positive Discipline for Single Parents:
Nurturing, Cooperation, Respect and Joy in Your Single-Parent Family
Once again for a Kevin Bacon-Kyra Sedgwick production I sensed a serious purpose and heartfelt performances in a drama designed to weigh a subject's distasteful realities, as I noted in my review of their "The Woodsman" project. Once again, I felt a strained, indefinable quality tugging not so much at my connection to the subject but at the uneasiness of the storytelling. I kept wishing for a steadier directorial hand at the helm.
The story of a psychologically troubled single mother fits the Bacon-Sedgwick social consciousness. Their ability to draw in excellent performance talent is to their consistent credit. But the creative vision is a road with all-too frequent pot holes that jangle the ride.
Emily (Kyra Sedgwick, "The Closer," TV series) is nothing if not sensually sizzling when we first meet her, and very much by design. In carrying out her scheme to become pregnant by a man with intellectual and/or physical gifts, her exploits in quick copulation would put the average nymphomaniac to shame. She seems to be unaware of the menstrual cycle and the time of the month when her body is most susceptible to impregnation. Her lust with a purpose knows no calendar guidance nor appointments with a semen bank.
She's clear on one thing: the sheer number of sex partners will rule out any possibility of a later claim to parentage by any of them. She wants her baby to be all hers, no questions asked. Only, after giving a lot of men sudden pleasures with breathtaking brevity, it's not happening. She's not getting pregnant. What's a girl to do?
She's about to give up the effort when, one day, she meets a man (Campbell Scott) whose calm, assured way convinces her to give it another try and lo! it works. She's on her way. Baby Paul is about to be born.
Meanwhile, there's plenty of time for flashbacks to explain where this woman is coming from. As a 10-year old (daughter Sosie Bacon in a first role) she's emotionally neglected by parents (Mr. Bacon and Marisa Tomei) who are so into themselves, anyone else is an afterthought, including their sole offspring. Receiving no guidance or support at home, Emily becomes attracted to Mrs. Harker (Sandra Bullock in a nearly uncredited role), a beautiful mother of two boys, one mentally impaired, who befriends her and becomes the role model of her dreams.
Emily's sense of aloneness, self guilt, and distrust is indelibly registered on her mind when a family tragedy drives home how alone she really is and how a "never again" vow turns into an adulthood with an abnormal distrust of society and its leveling effects.
She acts out this distrust through domination of her son whom she calls "Loverboy." Paul (Dominic Scott Kay) is a dynamo with long hair who, at 6, has adapted to the constancy of his mother's attention and both enjoys and questions the quirky world she's created. Besides her insistence on home schooling, she comes up with a great variety of activities to keep them both amused, preoccupied, and away from anyone or anything that might threaten to penetrate their protective bubble. What she hasn't counted on is the world's relentless intrusions, and how a little boy's natural tendencies are a force to undermine plans laid in the concrete of a parent's troubled determination.
The film is a conversion from a novel by Victoria Redel that Bacon and Sedgwyck were affected by (as detailed in the press notes). I couldn't escape the impression that the novel probably read better than the adaptation by screenwriter Hannah Shakespeare and director Bacon has made it. For me, it's a disturbing psychological study with insufficient sympathetic connection -- a low calory meal with no dessert. The Bacon-Tomei sequences are done in a style of farcical exaggeration that breaks the film apart into floating episodic islands that does the film and its comprehension no favors. This film couple's vanity productions may keep them working but their fine talents are best realized under the direction of far better storytellers. It may be time someone so advised them.