Festivals

{Fantastic Fest} Movie Review: Homewrecker

When foulmouthed Stepford Wives meets Prozac Nation in a Fatal Attraction you’ll find Homewrecker.

Homewrecker
Courtesy of Underground jamboree and Industry Films

Everything about Zach Gayne’s psychedelic satire is drenched in scathing sarcasm.  The unrealistic pressure women put on themselves, and society puts on them is front and center in this feminist cautionary tale.  Michelle, an early thirties interior designer who is newly married, begins running into Linda, a late forties social butterfly all over town.  Linda fills her days painting and taking dance classes and is eager for a friend or so she says.  Michelle is a passive person who has been indoctrinated her whole life to be polite and not make waves.  When Linda convinces Michelle to come to her house for some designing advice, she at first refuses but later gives in so as not to offend the odd older woman.  From the first moment in Linda’s house, it is obvious this woman has other ideas. and Michelle should have ignored her instincts to please.

Note to self, when you enter a house, and a sledgehammer is used as a design piece to remind the homeowner of the person they once were, you should run.  You don’t need the money or the hassle.  As any good connoisseur of genre films will tell you, pay attention to the small details or in this case LARGE HAMMER IN THE ROOM.  There will never be a weapon introduced in act one that doesn’t get used by act three.  How that hammer is used and why is one of the best parts of the film.  Linda’s home is a full-sized version of a farcical vision board. 

Adolescent dreams and wishes litter every surface.  If she had pages of Tiger Beat used as wallpaper, I would not have been surprised.  As the film progresses and Michelle is drugged, held hostage, and worse. Linda’s true motivations are revealed. The two women become locked in a struggle between past and present.  Who has power and who doesn’t becomes the real question.

Everything from the bizarre decor to cocktail hour at eleven in the morning on a workday lay the groundwork for what will be one wild ride.  After the action heats up a toxic the characters play a twisted version of an antiquated board game, Party Hunks. The rules are a perverted vision where kisses are currency, and prostitution is not just encouraged but necessary to win.  It is a clear peek under the hood of this poor woman who has been marginalized since the beginning. 

She peaked in high school when she was young and pretty,  Now she holds on to her youth with countless feminine workout sessions(no boxing allowed here), Richard Simmons-esque headbands, and daffy jokes.  She is the perfect vision of what she thinks women should be, only older.  Michelle represents what they should be now(I say with an eye roll).  The younger woman is everything Linda has lost.  She is younger, thinner, and married.  She is also deeply concerned with appearance and others opinions, desperate to not “make a fuss,” and just independent enough to add money to the communal bank account without being threatening.

Linda’s manic energy and Michelle’s nervous civility play well off one another.  The two women actually represent opposite sides of an anti-feminist coin.  Linda is a child of the Eighties.  An era that brought us Nancy Reagan, who some believe continued the focus on docile, pretty, and subservient females.  Like children, women should be seen, but not heard unless to provide sweet commentary.  Cheerleaders who smile and look adorable without requesting anything for themselves.  Michelle, who was born as much as two decades later, hasn’t shaken that constraint.  Her passivity is played like a fiddle by the older woman who is addicted to emotional porn.  By stirring up trouble in others, Linda gets validation for herself.  She is a diseased bully in Lululemon.  As Michelle tries to curate the ideal life, Linda wants to peel back the layers and expose the messiness inside.

The boozy soundtrack by Doug Martsch mixes effortlessly with eighties classics as Linda’s careful grip on reality gives way.  The combination of familiar and discordant provide a backdrop for the film that is as skewed as Linda’s perspective.  Madness pervades as the truth is revealed at the very end. 

Intelligent use of ’80s nostalgia plays out as social commentary as opposed to emotional manipulation.  The era may have brought us Sarah Jessica Parker’s Girls Just Want To Have Fun and Lisa Loeb’s Stay, but it also brought President Bill Clinton’s sexual misconduct.  Forty years later and #Timesup and #Metoo have finally caught up, and its time for change. There is no question Homewrecker is seeking to make a statement. 

As coy as the flintiest girl, however, this film hides cutting statements in plain sight.  For example, the neighbor thinks women could never be criminals, so he doesn’t think twice about the wrestling hold Linda has Michelle in. Sexuality is portrayed as a comic sidekick with dildos used as microphones and weapons.  Pink unicorn bath bomb water layers the not so subtle reminders that women in the past and even now are expected to be pretty, sweet-smelling, baby-smooth, and compliant at all times. Homewrecker premiered at Fantastic Fest last night and awaits greater distrubution. Let’s keep our well-manicured fingers crossed.

Have your say