[Fantasia '19] Review: HOMEWRECKER is a Whacky, Wild Tale of Obsession and Reality
The following review is from the Fantasia Film Festival, one of the premiere genre film festivals in the world.
Early into Zach Gayne’s Homewrecker, our leading lady Michelle (Alex Essoe) rebuts antagonist Linda (played by Precious Chong), saying “What? No, you’re not weird.”
Oh Michelle, how wrong you are.
Michelle is an interior designer who is struggling in her marriage. She opens up to fellow spin class attendee Linda, out of nothing more than desperation for conversation, before Linda leans into their tentative friendship heavily. Once Linda gets Michelle to her place, things go south, and fast, and Michelle finds herself fighting for survival against the manic Linda.
We’ve seen this story numerous times in different variations. Linda has become obsessive with aspects of Michelle’s life due to her lack of any real connection with anyone. On the later half of middle aged, Linda has regressed to holding onto the past, showcased by her obsession with jazzercise, spandex, and Shannen Doherty’s first film role (I honestly can’t tell if it’s Night Shift or Girls Just Want to Have Fun but I’m guessing the latter.) A movie that is relying on nothing but script and acting chops, a lot falls on the shoulders of these women. Essoe is excellent as the mousy Michelle, following a true story arc, starting the film as a pushover and a people pleaser who is forced to overcome numerous challenges to fight for escape, and eventually her life. At the start of the third act and in the final scene, Essoe draws deep and exceeds even the expectations she had set earlier in the film, drawing on something much more primal and painful to deliver a one-two punch that bodes well for the movie. Our real star, however, is Chong. From early on, it’s her tics and outbursts that clue us into the true madness lying beneath. Yelling at strangers on the street underneath the disguise of feminism or jokes open the door but once she sings 90 one hit wonders radio sensation “Stay (I Missed You)" into a dildo in it’s entirety, never taking her eyes off the camera, that’s when you crossover into a world that is redlining on obsession and mania.
Gayne is working with literally the bare minimum here. We have a three person cast, three settings (two of which are sat in for maybe three minute each) and even everything from costuming to set design is threadbare. What he manages to stretch with literally almost nothing needs to be applauded. He has great control over the camera, a nervous and off-putting framework that fits tonally with the movie he’s also written (alongside his leads.) Gayne has gifted us with an Adult Swim style thriller that is as awkwardly funny as it is biting and brutal.
Homewrecker is as weird as its main antagonist. It’s an oddball little film that’s charming in its minimalism and the kind of movie you’ll laugh at and then second guess the laughter. Gaynes is a fun director and these leads prove their worth with quirky, nuanced performances.
Homewrecker is on the festival circuit now.