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Home Room
2003 - R - 132 Mins.
Director: Paul F. Ryan
Producer: Ben Ormand
Written By: Paul F. Ryan
Starring: Erika Christensen, Busy Philipps, Victor Garber, Raphael Sbarge
Review by: Joe Rickey
   
The aftermath of a school shooting leaves nine dead and others wounded. A detective has the task of finding out who may have known about the terrible act beforehand. He soon finds a student; Alicia Browning an outsider at the school whom he believes may have had it in for her fellow students. Alicia, prompted by the school principal, visits the wounded Deanna. They soon strike up an unlikely friendship as the investigation continues. Home Room is written and directed by newcomer Paul F. Ryan and stars Busy Phillips as Alicia and Erika Christensen (Swimfan) as Deanna. Home Room is a solid drama concerning loss with a great debut performance by Busy Phillips.

The topic discussed in this film is not an easy one to moralize or explain. Director Ryan attempts to explain the reasons someone might commit such a brutal act of cruel violence. He tries to explain the reasons for the perpetrator’s action. Why a troubled youth would do such a thing is a topic he has the goal of discussing through what devolves into a chamber piece on film. What is interesting to note is that the shooting is not depicted on screen as the film begins after the event has already taken place.

The limited nature of the set-up leaves it up to the writing and the performances to keep the viewer interest because there are no signs of action in Home Room. The film makes a few missteps concerning the detective’s hunt for those involved as there are far too many scenes that ring false during his investigation process that includes dealing with a town in rage over what they believe is the mishandling of the investigation. The film would have almost been better off excising much of this angle from the film, as it really isn’t at the core of what the film is about. As the detective, Victor Garber is okay but hampered by the aforementioned problems concerning his character’s role in the film as a whole.

After a while though, the film shifts its focus to the aforementioned chamber piece involving them relationship between the two girls. Once the film makes this move, it quickly becomes a wholly compelling experience. As the wounded (Both physically and emotionally) Deanna, Erika Christensen gives a superb performance full of feeling. Even more impressive is the performance by Busy Phillips. She is simply amazing to behold in the role. She never has a false moment and gets the attention of the viewer from her first line of dialogue to her last. It isn’t very often that an actor makes such a great impression in their debut but Busy Phillips has done just that with Home Room. It will be really interesting to see what she does in the future to harness what is obviously loads of talent.

The film was obviously made on a low budget and the cinematography by Rebecca Baehler reflects this, as it is rather plain and unobtrusive. The music by Michael Shapiro is minimalist but effective when utilized.


 
Movie Guru Rating
Entertaining and well crafted.  May not be worth the price of a theater ticket, but a solid rental. Entertaining and well crafted.  May not be worth the price of a theater ticket, but a solid rental. Entertaining and well crafted.  May not be worth the price of a theater ticket, but a solid rental. Entertaining and well crafted.  May not be worth the price of a theater ticket, but a solid rental.
  3.5 out of 5 stars

 
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