MOVIE REVIEW: ‘Homemakers’

Homemakers

Film: Homemakers
Directed by: Colin Healey
Starring: Rachel McKeon, Jack Culbertson, Molly Carlisle

Irene is a hellraising indie rock singer based in Austin, though her “home” appears to simply be wherever she is at any given time as the film opens with her spending nights in scorpion-infested shacks and in tents she sets up in the middle of parking lots.

After a falling out with her bandmates, she receives a surprising, yet well-timed phone call informing her she has inherited a house built by her grandfather, who she didn’t even realize had passed away. So she takes off to Pittsburgh to claim her inheritance.

Irene plans to stay for just a few days before selling the place for whatever she can get and head back to Austin to reconcile with her band. But since her grandfather spent the last decade or so of his life in assisted living, the place is an unlivable shithole (to put it kindly).

So she enlists the help of her estranged cousin Cam (Jack Culbertson) to help restore the house. The two clearly have no clue how to paint or put up wallpaper, but what matters is that they’re having fun and bonding — even if their hard-partying, door smashing, bottle breaking ways often negate any improvements they’ve made along the way.

After a while, it becomes clear that Irene is no longer in a hurry to leave. Whether she realized it while watching her grandfather’s old 8mm porn reels or while constructing a “moon room” filled with Christmas lights and old mattresses (you know, for bouncing) in the attic, the place began feeling like home. And that’s a frightening idea for a drifter who completely rejects the idea of settling down in one place and views terms like “nesting” as derogatory.

Irene is played by Rachel McKeon, who has more than a little Natalie Portman in her — both in appearance and on-screen charisma. McKeon’s portrayal of Irene finds a fine balance between self-assured exterior confidence and the inner insecurity of someone who refuses to grow up, yet wants others to treat her like an adult. Writer/director Colin Healey has also done well to avoid over-writing the character. As over-the-top and unpredictable as her antics can be, she’s not so outlandish that she becomes unrelatable.

“Home” might sound like a boring, conformist word to a free spirit like Irene, but that word has plenty of positive connotations as well. It’s a place where we can relax and be ourselves, offering an escape from the horrors of the outside world. Without completely spelling everything out, Healey gives enough clues about Irene’s family and upbringing to suggest these are not things Irene previously associated with home life. Perhaps the word “home” is only offensive to Irene because she had no idea what the word actually meant. If someone dreads coming home every night as an adolescent, it’s hard to fault them for never wanting a place of their own.

That tired old cliche says “home is what you make it,” and I suppose that’s true. But sometimes, if you travel enough, a place can pull you in when you least expect it. A stopover can become an extended stay, which can quickly become a permanent residence. And more often than not, it’s the people, rather than the physical structure of a house or apartment that makes you feel at home. And that certainly appears to be the case with Irene, Cam and a few of the neighbors with which they form an unlikely bond.

Homemakers is a warm and funny film, reminding us that as great as it feels to be free and independent, everyone needs somebody. And everyone needs a place they can call “home.”

GRADE: A-

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