weekend was like most. It started retarded, ended retarded,
and the middle was a vague haze. My original plan for this weekend
was to see Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Friday night,
then spend Saturday drunk on malt liquor bought with my Ray-o-Vac
battery rebate checks. Finally, a lifetime of refusing to buy
alkalines pays off. Hung over and unfocused on Sunday, I would
write my review.
something magical happened. Something so magical it can only
be described as special. Maybe two or three times in a life
do fortunes converge and make a weekend as wonderful as this
one. My first was the weekend Mrs. Filthy said yes when I proposed,
and the Rockies had Dollar Hot Dog Night. The second was when
I found cases of uneaten taquitos and punctured cans of generic
mayonnaise behind the 7-11.
the same weekend that David Duchovny's directorial debut, the
mentally-handicapped janitor dramedy House of D, came
to Denver CBS kicked off sweeps month in grand fashion with
Rosie O'Donnell as a loud, fat mongoloid in Riding the Bus
With My Sister. God bless TV movies.
was a weekend like my cousin Larry always sings about. "It's
raining retards! Hallelujah, it's raining retards! Is that your
final answer! Scrubbing bubbles!" It was also a perfect opportunity
to spend some quality time with Hollywood's interpretation of
the mentally challenged. And also, a chance to compare two actors
of approximately equal inabilities: Robin Williams and O'Donnell.
of D is a painfully insincere attempt at earnestness by
director/writer/star David Duchovny. It really helped me understand
why movies in general are so fucking shitty: because the actors
are morons. Stars like Duchovny constantly complain about a
dearth of good material, and then when given the chance to make
something, they crap out a massive turd like this. House
of D thing is so fucking awful, amateurish and incomprehensible
that it shouldn't even be in junior college film festivals,
let alone commercial theaters. It's a lead balloon dragging
the mawkish corpse of Robin Williams over the glass shards of
almost all trite stories are, House of D is narrated
in voiceover and flashback by a man reconsidering his life.
Duchovny, an artist living in Paris, recalls his life as a 13-year-old
boy in New York. We know he lives in Paris because he rides
his bike by the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame. Yes, everything
here is that obvious. The 13-year old version of himself is
best friends with a retarded janitor played by Robin Williams,
who reminds me of the damaged tins of meat we used to sell at
the Family Dollar: ham swimming in little curly black hairs.
I will point out that this idea of what a 13-year-old is like
is one of the most off-base and absurd I have ever seen. One
moment the kid is in his pajamas making bombing noises as he
aims his pee at cigarette butts in a toilet. The next he is
having profound discussions with pimps. In general, Duchovny
shows about as strong a grip on the real world as an autistic
boy living alone in a bomb shelter.
boy is saddled with a histrionic, depressed mother (Tea Leoni)
who we know will commit suicide after it is foreshadowed, oh,
a dozen or so times. As the boy grows older he and Williams
grow more distant. Williams, being retarded, can't mature, but
the boy becomes interested in girls. He is coached along by
a wise prostitute with a heart of gold (Erykah Badu) locked
up in the "House of D", a women's detention center. She helps
him win girls' hearts from her high window, using a shard of
mirror to look down on him. When his mother dies, the young
Duchovny steals an old lady's money and runs away to Paris.
Maybe a more interesting movie would be about how he got into
France without a passport, or how he survived to adulthood in
a country he's never seen, on a handful of crumpled bills and
with a limited knowledge of French.
to the present in Paris, the grown Duchovy has missed his teen
son's birthday. Like so many things, the movie doesn't really
explain why. Instead, his is son asleep in a courtyard and the
estranged wife is chewing Duchovny out in front of a building
full of cute Frogs watching and commenting from their windows
as he finally reveals that it's not his fault. He tells his
wife, for the first time how he was scarred by his retarded
best friend, his fucked up mom and his heart-of-gold hooker.
course, the wife tells him to go back to America and make everything
right. I have no fucking idea why. I have this sneaking suspicion
that Duchovny doesn't either. Just that every bad coming-of-age
flashback movie has this sort of closure. So he goes back to
find the now-aged hooker and tell her he turned out okay, and
to find a much older but still retarded Williams. Now, here's
my question: if he is all fucked up because of this burning
secret he's held so tight for so long, why is the whole point
of his return trip to tell the whore and Williams that he turned
out okay after all? And why would his estranged wife and son
come all the way from France to see that? "Hey, honey, I know
things have been awkward between us. But, if you just fly across
the ocean to meet my retarded friend, I think everything will
be all right. He's magical." What a fucking load of crap.
narration is strewn with gallstones of wisdom that Duchovny
pisses out in bloody shards. There's some long-winded explanation
of growing up being like a combination lock and you have to
get the tumblers all lined up. Maybe it sounded wise to a hack
TV actor several years removed from the limelight, but it's
tedious and cutesy. The characters are so stock and tiresome,
and their actions make no sense. They all do unbelievable things
driven by the hand of Duchovny, shepherding them to moments
of revelation. So many valuable lessons can be learned from
retards, especially when they act nothing like real ones. Hell,
why the fuck not make it a talking dog as long as it's so obviously
CBS's unwatchable but better, Riding the Bus with my Sister
Rosie O'Donnell and friends crib generously from Rainman.
O'Donnell plays a loud, large retarded woman who likes to ride
the bus all day and make friends with drivers and other passengers.
My only question is, what took her so long? I mean, what else
is she qualified to play? She looks at home in a bad perm and
"Strawberry Shortcake" T-shirts. Actually, she's never looked
story is set with sepia-toned flashbacks that reveal the tragic
truth of McDowell and O'Donnell's lives; they didn't have childhoods,
just a series of melodramatic cliches. When O'Donnell's father
has a heart attack, her professional, polished workaholic sister
(Andie McDowell) has to come take care of her. McDowell must
give up her lucrative yuppie lifestyle to make sure her little
sister is okay. But, ho ho! Who takes care of whom? Sure, O'Donnell
is the one you have to keep from eating a jar of Vaseline, but
McDowell learns hard-won lessons about love and life. And who
better to teach them than a retard? Or, rather, a potentially
retarded celebrity hamfisting her way to a very special Emmy?
Oh, man, I hope she goes to claim it in character.
with O'Donnell, McDowell has the inside track on all the hunky
bus drivers, and she's like a kid in a candy store, quickly
locking lips with one. O'Donnell's retarded boyfriend is mugged.
I don't really know what that was for, but if network TV can
show the disabled getting the shit kicked out of them, they
should also be allowed to show tits. It is also revealed that
McDowell talked her sister into getting her tubes tied many
years earlier. Although O'Donnell and her boyfriend are a couple,
we are spared the sight of them ever being affectionate. That
would be fucking terrifying not because O'Donnell is playing
retarded, but because O'Donnell is O'Donnell. And O'Donnell
is a fucking pig.
the end, McDowell returns to her own life, wiser and warmer
thanks to getting to know the sister she loathed, and drinking
from the spit fount she spews forth. She even gets her old boyfriend
back, exploits her sister through her photography, is declared
a genius and gets pregnant.
liked Riding the Bus with my Sister a hell of a lot better
than House of D because it was a more straightforward
and traditional misrepresentation of the mentally disabled.
It didn't try to get fancy or pretentious. It just said that
retards are adorable, cuddly and as stuffed with wisdom as a
John Kenneth Galbraith pinata. House of D was so damn
busy trying to find itself that it lost focus of its central
point: that retards are as magical as pixies, fairies and naked
one-speed louder-is-better acting style was made for O'Donnell.
In fact, I got the sense she was ad-libbing, really getting
into the retardation. The mismatched pastel sneakers, and the
scene of her crying while eating donuts on a bus bench are icing
on the cake. It scared my dog. If watching a retarded woman
crying at a burial turns you on, as it does for many of us,
you must see this movie. It is the most erotic thing since Candy
Bottoms ended her "Short Bus Bangers" series in 1987.
think most people should be disgusted with Hollywood's "Precious
Moments" portrayals of the retarded. It fucking pisses me off.
Retards are people too, and they are people with serious problems.
They are not cuddly pals who always teach us how to be better
people. Sometimes they repeat themselves for hours and hours.
Sometimes they shit their pants. What lesson is there to be
learned from that, other than to cover everything with plastic?
But, Hollywood keeps trotting them out to prop them up as something
they arenít. It think it has little to do with helping us understand
mental disabilities, and a shitload to do with Hollywood wanting
to feel good about themselves. Maybe they find it easier to
act retarded than actually help the retarded. Or maybe they'd
rather just approximate what goes on in families with handicapped
members then spend time with them. Either way, fuck off, Hollywood.
Use a monkey, a dwarf or anything but the helpless retarded.
question on everyone's mind is this: who makes a better retard,
O'Donnell or Williams? Really, they are both so natural at it.
Williams comes from the school where retards have a well of
warmth and wisdom just behind their eyes. The character's inadvertent
wisdom comes from someplace deep inside. He apes and grins and
acts so hard you think he's going to bust a blood vessel. It's
like there is a little man in his face who is trying to get
out. O'Donnell takes a different tact. She's as blank as her
character. She's loud, monotonous and continually self-amused.
Her wisdom is purely accidental, the product of saying the first
thing that comes into her mind. One Finger for House
of D, and Two Fingers for Riding the Bus With