Monday, April 23, 2018

Punk rock and Buckminster Fuller join forces in Peter Livolsi's THE HOUSE OF TOMORROW

You won't find much odder combinations that those that come together in THE HOUSE OF TOMORROW, the first full-length film from Sundance alumnus Peter Livolsi. The two families that slowly begin to meld here could hardly be more different -- one whose father embraces religion as a kind of escape, the other pure-science-oriented who lives in one of those geodesic domes designed by architect/ environmentalist/ inventor Buckminster Fuller. The son in each family seems like the proverbial oil/water mix, as well.

If Mr. Livolsi's movie (the filmmaker is shown at left) has the whiff of manipulation -- his adapted screenplay is based upon the novel by Peter Bognanni -- the performances by the film's six leading actors are spot-on, alternately funny and moving, while the writing and direction allow those performances to carry the weight of the somewhat too telescoped story.

The result is a film that lives and breathes vitally as it unfurls before you, even if you might find yourself picking it apart once it's over and you've recovered from being in-the-moment with these terrific actors.

Sebastian (Asa Butterfield, above, seated) and his Nana (Ellen Burstyn, above, hair-cutting) live and work (as caretaker/guides) in the geodesic dome/home designed by the late, great Mr. Fuller. On a tour one day comes a church group led by a dad (Nick Offerman, below, left), his two kids, Jared (Alex Wolff, below, center) and Meredith (Maude Apatow, below, right), and some other young church members. The very small but vital interplay that occurs between Sebastian, Meredith and Jared -- just a little conversation, touching and then a boner -- leads to these kids' increasing connection with and reliance on each other.

Teen-age rebellion, planned and otherwise, is something movies have always served up, from the Rebel Without a Cause of my own teen years until now. This film, however, with its hugely different philosophies at work, as well as its two families suffering each in its own way from great loss and neither quite able to properly cope, offers an odd but enticing tale that grows wilder as it moves along.

That the movie does not spin out of control is due mostly to those wonderful performances and to Livolsi's ability to keep us hanging on in hopes that the film will not finally betray itself and its ideas/ideals. It doesn't, but due to that telescoping, a little too much goes on for its own good. Still, there are a number of lovely high points along the way. Why people sometimes act as they do, in a manner that doesn't seem to help themselves or those they love, is brought home quite beautifully in a scene between Sebastian and Meredith in a hospital waiting room, above.

How we can imprison ourselves, even in a remarkable, environmentally friendly house full of light that brings the outside in, is demonstrated very nicely, too, as is some punk rock music that, for the first time in my movie-going experience, actually made some sense -- musically and philosophically -- while advancing the plot-line along.

If you can accept a little manipulation in service to some thoughtful ideas and wonderful acting, I suspect you'll be happy to have seen The House of Tomorrow, a title that becomes more and more ironic -- and yet absolutely truthful, too -- as the movie moves along.

I wonder what Buckminster Fuller would think of the film. I 'd hope that, as surprised as he might initially be, he would also enjoy and approve. From Shout! Studios and running just 85 minutes, the movie opens this Friday, April 27, in New York City at the Village East Cinema, in the Los Angeles area at Laemmle's Noho 7 and Playhouse 7, and here in South Florida at the AMC Aventura 24, Miami.  To see the listing of all currently scheduled playdates, cities and theaters, click here.

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