Home Movie

According to the old adage, "home is where the heart is." What that says about the people in Chris Smith's new documentary Home Movie, however, is questionable. Smith, who also made the documentaries American Movie and American Job returns with a new documentary that begins as a look at five very unique dwellings. He went to Hawaii, Kansas, California, Louisiana, and Chicago to find the most interesting, strangest houses he could. It turns out that these houses are merely reflections of their owners. But the owners are not as strange as they seem, they just have some fascinating quirks.

Bill Tregle raises alligators in Louisiana. It looks like his entire life is in his houseboat. He says that if he gets bored of the view, he can pick up anchor and move somewhere else. Linda Beech lives deep in a remote Hawaiian valley, up atop a tree. Well, atop and around the tree. Ben Skora lives in a retro house of the future in Chicago. He is an inventor, always looking for cool new ways to do things. Walls and rooms move, a planter becomes a toilet, shelves drop from the roof, and his loveseats can jet along the floor. Ed and Diana Peden transformed an abandoned missile silo near Topeka, Kansas into their home, and finally Bob Walker and Francis Mooney (and their eleven cats) live in truly strange house in Los Angeles.

One idea consistent across all these people is a new age sensibility. The Peden's and their friends gather to chant. Beech, who spent many years in Japan, has a feng shui-type attitude about her house. For her, the surroundings are almost mystical. Even Skora, grounded in science and all things mechanical, believes in things like spirits and hypnosis. A sense of simplicity also permeates. Many of these people want to be around nature. Beech appreciates the fact that she has a waterfall in her backyard. Tregle just hops in the water to catch his lunch. The Peden's live underground, but built a greenhouse of sorts to be able to see and feel sunlight. Even Skora idealizes a life of simplicity. All of his inventions are to make his life easier. The only people that don't really follow any of these trends are Mooney and Walker. Their cats are like children to them, and they spent all their money making their house into an uber-cat playhouse. It has walkways, clubhouses, and cat-pictured carpets.

It's very easy (and tempting) for Smith to mock these people. It is harder (and ultimately more fulfilling) to do what Smith does, which is to take a deeper look at these characters. Each house could probably merit a documentary. By combining five vastly different houses together, Smith is able to get a sense of scope. The only thing he does not cover is how these people can fund their projects. It must have cost a fortune for the Peden's to buy and convert their silo. Universal ideas like simplicity, harmony, or just love are things that everybody can relate to. How they express them something completely different. The people in Home Movie express these emotions through their houses. Their methods may be a little outside the normal, but deep down (sometimes really deep down) they are just like everybody else.

Mongoose Rates It: Not Bad.
1 hour, Not Rated but an easy PG or possibly PG-13.

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