THE HOUSE OF TOMORROW
Reviewed by: Harvey Karten
Director: Peter Livolsi
Screenwriter: Peter Livolsi adapted from Peter Bognanni’s novel
Cast: Ellen Burstyn, Nick Offerman, Asa Butterfield, Alex Wolff, Maude Apatow, Michaela Watkins
Screened at: Review 2, NYC, 3/27/18
Opens: April 27, 2018
Coming of age stories often rely on the synergy between two young people with opposite temperaments, with “The House of Tomorrow” currently standing in to support that concept. The film also grants great praise to Buckminster Fuller, a brilliant, innovative, establishment-fighting engineer, architect and designer. The movie’s title relates to a house Fuller built in Minnesota with a geodesic dome, which purportedly could withstand more pressure than traditional materials. (A good example is the Montréal Biophère.) But enough about engineering and architecture. “The House of Tomorrow” is a fully human story, one which involves two older people who are overprotective in their care of sixteen-year-olds and whose helicopter-like hovering over the young men is not doing the teens’ any good.
When Josephine (Ellen Burstyn) has a stroke, her grandson Sebastian (Asa Butterfield) begins hanging out with Jared (Alex Wolff). Jared is a punk-band enthusiast obsessed with heavy metal songs and is the recent recipient of a heart transplant which requires the taking of a host of medications, all administered by his bible-thumping Lutheran father Alan Whitcomb (Nick Offerman). Sebastian has been sheltered by his grandmother after the death of the boy’s parents, home-schooling him and keeping him within the Buckminster-Fuller designed geodesic dome as though he were a prisoner. She appears to be doing this more because of her own fear of loneliness should she release the lad into lands beyond, but after his meetings with Jared, who offers him his earbuds, Sebastian becomes instantly enamored of the fierce, angry sounds of resistance. Jared’s dad welcomes Sebastian into his home hoping that the awkward boy who speaks in stilted, hackneyed sentences would help civilize his own overly-emotional kid and perhaps even Jared’s tough-sounding but vulnerable older sister Meredith (Maude Apatow).
We wonder whether Jared’s father would like to turn his son into another Sebastian, as the latter boy, brought up exclusively on organic food by his “Nana,” spends time on his juicer sculpting grotesque-looking green drinks. However the joke is on
Alan. Jared influences Sebastian in every which way starting with the soda to which he introduces his fellow teen who is awed by the taste of this delightful, sparkling beverage. Giving Sebastian guitar lessons in which both merrily strum whole chords without the subtleties of individual strings, he plans with the sheltered young man to form a band.
If Jared influences Sebastian to the punk style, especially the music, then daddy Alan is about to be influenced by his son. Refusing to allow his church to be used for a punk concert, Alan has his life changed by the friendship between his son and Sebastian in a delightful finale in which the forty-something father himself comes of age.
The score would be considered ideal by fans of such groups as Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Deep Purple. Peter Livolsi in his full-length filmmaking debut adapted the novel by Peter Bognanni, which is available from Amazon for $2.49 hardcover, even less for the paperback.
Unrated. 85 minutes. © 2018 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online
Story – B-
Acting – B+
Technical – B
Overall – B