Sundance 2010 Review: HOMEWRECKER

Kate Erbland

by: Kate Erbland
February 2nd, 2010

Rating: 6.5/10

Writers: Brad Barnes, Todd Barnes
Directors: Brad Barnes, Todd Barnes
Cast: Anslem Richardson, Ana Reeder, Stephen Rannazzisi

Mike is a locksmith. He’s also in jail. As part of a work release program, he gets to spend his days cracking locks around New York City, returning at night to the work release barracks. He has temporary freedom that he’s not even remotely trying to mess with. The only time he strays is to spy on his ex-girlfriend, Courtney, but even that has more going on than just the usual stalking-an-ex bit. But Mike’s straight-arrow life is about to get turned upside down by the next person to require his services. Her name is Margo. And Margo hasn’t played things straight – well, maybe ever.

If you’ve ever called a locksmith, HOMEWRECKER may give you a bit of an unintentional chill. Mike shows up for a seemingly regular job. Margo is there, needing a door unlocked. Easy, right? Well, it’s not Margo’s apartment, and within minutes, that much is obvious, much to a bewildered and horrified Mike. Any missteps, or any brushes with missteps, are kryptonite to Mike. The apartment is actually Margo’s boyfriend’s, and she’s there to investigate her overwhelming belief that he is cheating on her. What follows after this first off-kilter meet cute is a twist on the formulaic plot of two strangers stuck together on a crazy journey.

While the plot may sound a bit silly, the Barnes brothers have crafted a tight script that easily sets up all manner of reasons why these two are stuck together and why they can’t back off. It’s easily the best part of HOMEWRECKER, and an unexpected treat for anyone who might scoff at the set-up. The Barnes boys know what they are doing, and they sure as hell know how to craft a well-working script.

Margo is a cousin of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl ideal – with a bit more of an emphasis on Manic and less on Dream. In a horrifyingly short period of time, she consumes and overwhelms Mike’s life. It’s to actress Ana Reeder’s credit that she keeps things believable and sweet. In the hands of another actress, Margo could verge straight into out-and-out looney territory. But Reeder and Anslem Richardson’s chemistry is palpable and just sexy enough to keep things between them interesting.

But the film starts to drag a bit after a memorable section involving Mike and Margo’s search for a new home for a door gate they’ve acquired in a truly hilarious portion of the film. The focus shifts too rapidly to keep a well-paced flow and, while the addition of new characters and new venues might add spice on paper, it detracts from the working chemistry between our leads. It also takes us away from the film’s raison d’etre – screwball attempts to uncover boyfriend Charles’ supposed infidelity. The momentum of the first half of HOMEWRECKER grinds to a halt and the rest of the film starts to limp towards an increasingly obvious ending.

HOMEWRECKER has all the makings of a sleepy little charmer, but would infinitely benefit from some judicious editing. An otherwise quirky cute script and two accessible and enjoyable leads show exactly why the Barnes brothers and their work were voted the Best of NEXT at Sundance by a jury of their NEXT peers.

HOMEWRECKER won the Best of NEXT Award at Sundance.

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