- The janitor who befriends 13-year-old Tommy keeps slipping into Robin Williams impressions.
Duchovny wrote House of D, directed it, and plays the hero in his hiply bearded adult form, so there's no use trying to spread the blame: This is D.D.'s stinker, and his alone.
Proceed at your peril. When first we behold the protagonist, Tom Warshaw, he's a successful American in Paris. When he decides to reveal his secret past to his spouse, we are transported back to Greenwich Village in 1973, where his younger self, Tommy (played by a handsome but school-play-level actor named Anton Yelchin), is about to experience the pivotal year of his life.
No summary can be too short. Tommy's father is dead. His distraught mother (Téa Leoni, aka Mrs. David Duchovny) is strung out on barbiturates. He attends a strict parochial school, encased in blazer and necktie. He's precocious. He's plucky. He's lonely. For friendship, he turns to Pappas (Williams), the good-hearted janitor. For guidance, he winds up listening to a streetwise muse called Lady Bernadette (Erykah Badu), who happens to be an inmate at the old Women's House of Detention (thus the title) at Sixth Avenue and Tenth Street. Tommy can't see her at all. Through the bars of her cell high above the street, she dispenses all manner of wisdom about love, friendship, family dynamics, personal integrity, and dance techniques.
This "Lady" character is not without legitimacy. I used to live in Tommy's old neighborhood myself, and I remember the sharp, often hilarious exchanges between the House of D inmates and the liberated citizens below. No one, however, taught an entire philosophy course.
As for Tommy, let's not talk here about puppy love or misunderstood theft or even death -- all of which become entangled in Duchovny's turgid screenplay. Instead, let's jump-cut to the moment when our pint-sized hero, full of Lady Bernadette's sage advice, boards a jet for Paris, all by himself, presumably never to return. Remember now, he's 13. The fact that this kid cannot possibly have a passport has apparently not occurred to Duchovny, and that's not the only misapprehension. Even fairy tales demand dramatic logic. This one ain't got none, just an inflated sense of its power to move us.
House of D. D is for Dreadful. For Dud. For Duchovny.