An unfit momma’s boy


By Steven Snyder


Written by Hannah Shakespeare, based on the novel by Victoria Redel

Directed by Kevin Bacon

Now showing at the Angelika Film Center

18 W. Houston St. between Mercer and Broadway

(212-995-2000, www.angelikafilmcenter.com)

Think Film

Just the two of us: Kyra Sedgwick plays a deranged mom in husband Kevin Bacon’s directorial debut.

There are those who like to squirm at the movies, and those who don’t. A brief word of warning: “Loverboy’s” a squirmer. Marking the ambitious – perhaps too ambitious – directorial debut of Kevin Bacon, “Loverboy” evokes memories of “Bad Santa” and “Rodger Dodger,” movies which twisted traditional stories about Christmas and family, warping them into trangressive comedies. But unlike those relatively light-hearted affairs, “Loverboy” refuses to temper its shocks with the laughs that would allow audiences some breathing room.

While “Santa” took on the dignty of Old Saint Nick and “Dodger” targeted the wholesome back-and-forth of a nephew seeking advice from his uncle, “Loverboy” throws into question the basic bond between child and mother. And in the process, it becomes a thoroughly disturbing portrait of a sick woman who lives through her son – a dangerous woman who sees the natural growth of her offspring as a threat to their relationship. In this regard, it may be the first film to envelop us in the psychosis of a woman suffering from Munchausen Syndrome.

Playing with time in devious ways, we see Emily (Kyra Sedgwick, Bacon’s wife) at three crucial psychological periods in her life. The first is Emily as a child, as her self-obsessed parents deprive her of the attention she so desperately craves. The second is Emily as a scarred adult as she commits herself to creating her own child, pursuing one sexual escape after another in hopes of finding quick – and potent – sex.

But the bulk of the story plays out both in the present – as Emily and her son (Dominic Scott Kay) sit in a parked car, pretending to take a cross-country drive – and in the recent past, as Emily carefully controls her son’ development, keeping him away from teachers, neighbors or anyone else who he might find more interesting than her.

It is a tantalizing paradox, since we can at some level both relate to her sense of possesiveness, but be revolted by her selfishness. Most parents, it seems, don’t want to let go of their children. But they still find a way of taking off those training wheels as the kids grow up, and allowing the rider to pedal on their own.

Emily, though, is simply not wired that way. She wants her boy to stay on those training wheels forever, and she will do absolutely anything to keep him there. Her version of love alternates between motherly kindness and the obsessiveness of a distraught lover.

It is in this disturbing place where “Loverboy” – Emily’s frightening nickname for her child – is at both its most captivating and bizarre. Emily, as crafted by Sedgwick, is a gooey, over-the-top mix of preening sweetness and vindictive cruelty. But Loverboy himself doesn’t see what we see when he looks at his mom. Hers is the only love he has ever known, and he writes off her instability merely as her quirks. And because of this, we are kept at a distance from them both, relegated to the sidelines to watch something as sacred as the mother-and-son bond become an immoral, disorienting nightmare.

All this being said, it’s not all that enjoyable. By its very nature, “Loverboy” keeps us at a distance, disconnected from this world as we judge from afar. But then again, some movies aren’t meant to be superficially entertaining. Some of the best films, in fact, want to live on in the mind, rather than live and die with the quick fizzle and fade of an easy laugh. It’s clearly not for everyone, but “Loverboy” is at least a story you’re not likely to forget any time soon – if ever.

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