October 18, 2006
Starring: Kyra Sedgwick, Kevin Bacon, Blair Brown, Matt Dillon, Campbell Scott, Oliver Platt, Marisa Tomei, Dominic Scott Kay, John Lafayette, Rob Sedgwick, Jessica Stone, Sandra Bullock,
Kevin Bacon continues to diversify an already fascinating career with his directorial debut, Loverboy (2005), adapted from Victoria Redel’s novel of the same name. Emily (Sedgwick) is a fiercely independent woman who isn’t looking for a husband but does want a child. She tries artificial insemination but it doesn’t take so she decides to have sex with a variety of men from all walks of life in different cities in different states, or as she puts it, “I was like the great jewelers of the Byzantine sorting through full stacks of stones.” She has sex with a bookish man in a library, an athlete, a musician and an intellectual type. The way she sees it, “Many men equals no father.” It certainly is an unorthodox way until it too fails when she miscarries.
Then, she meets and has sex with a smooth talking man (Scott) attending a convention in Chicago. She gets pregnant, buys a house and after giving birth, begins raising her child with the firm belief that he will be exceptional. It is at this point that Emily starts to exhibit unusual behaviour. She freaks out when a neighbour breastfeeds her baby (understandable) and then proceeds to give her child a bath sitting in the tub with all of her clothes on. When her son, Paul (Scott Kay) is eight years old, she teaches him to drive and decides that they will celebrate by having a sleepover in the car. Emily adores her child, which is perfectly understandable, but it becomes an all-consuming passion.
Emily wants Paul to be her vision of a brilliant person but at the exclusion of normal things that kids of his age do, like playing with other children. She has a smothering effect on him that is subtle at first, it seems normal, like a mother just being protective, but this changes over the course of the movie. What kind of damage is this kind of upbringing doing to Paul? All he knows is this insular world that Emily has created for him. Even he knows something isn’t right and begins asking for his father and asking to go to school with other kids. They live a kind of gypsy existence. Any time someone gets too close to either one of them, the other inadvertently (or purposely) sabotages the other’s potential happiness. Emily sees everyone else as a potential threat to the relationship with her son. For Emily, “normal” is a dirty word because she sees Paul as an exceptional child above all others and takes this belief to unhealthy extremes.
Bacon’s direction is stylish when it is necessary to the story but is never intrusive. Being an actor himself, he pays particular attention to his cast – it is a character study after all – that is uniformly strong, especially Kyra Sedgwick. She wisely underplays her role, refusing to resort to showboating tactics that one would expect from a tour de force performance. When Emily is in public places with other people you can see the struggle on her face to keep herself in check but when she’s by herself or alone with Paul, we start to see the cracks and Sedgwick does a wonderful job of conveying her character’s internal conflict. Dominic Scott Kay is excellent as Paul. He doesn’t affect the usual child actor tics, delivering a finely nuanced performance as a kid torn between the rarified world or his mother and a desire to have a normal childhood.
At one point Emily says, “Fitting in with the outside world – respectability, suitability, conformity – were never high on my priority list. Neither was normalcy.” Loverboy takes the eccentric oddball movie (Little Man Tate, Benny & Joon, etc.) and shows the dark side. When someone is truly exceptional or is it as seen through a parent’s obviously biased eyes? Bacon’s film doesn’t provide any easy answers and instead leaves it up to the viewer to decide for themselves.
There is an audio commentary by director Kevin Bacon. He talks about the genesis of the project and how he cast the role of Paul. Bacon touches upon working with his wife and what it was like to shoot sex scenes with her and another actor. He also talks about the challenges of making a modestly budgeted independent film with little time. Even though some of the big name actors cast in supporting roles are his friends, he made it clear to them that they should take the part because they were drawn to the role and not as a favour to him. This is a low key, informative track with Bacon speaking very knowledgably about various aspects of his movie.