Sundance competition entry “Homage” is a slice of American Gothic set in the desolate Southwest. The psychological thriller focuses on three emotionally crippled people whose interdependence threatens to ignite some unpleasant results.
The unrelentingly somber tone of the material limits commercial prospects for this handsomely crafted yarn. From the outset the tragedy of the piece is foreshadowed.Story provides no real rooting interest, and the creepiness of the material tries one’s patience. Best prospects will be small-screen situations, especially cable.
Based on a Mark Medoff play and adapted by the writer, the film opens with the murder of Lucy (Sheryl Lee), a sitcom actress who’s returned to New Mexico to patch up a fractured relationship with Katherine (Blythe Danner), her widowed mother. The perp, Archie (Frank Whaley), is a mathematician working as caretakerand gardener on Katherine’s ramshackle farm.
The events leading up to the conclusion are related in flashback as “witnesses” provide key plot points to members of the tabloid press who have descended on the small New Mexico community. But Medoff and director Ross Kagan Marks don’t particularly have anything to say about media impact and coverage. Their chief concern is these psychologically bruised people.
Whaley attempts to bring substance to his role, but his character remains too much of an enigma.
Far more tangible are the irreconcilable differences between mother and daughter.
Marks physically opens up the play and provides a seamless depiction of an arid environment, which serves as a chilling complement to the landscape of essentially unpleasant characters. The mixed blessing of these unrepentantly observant perfs is that you don’t particularly want to get too cozy with the trio — or Bruce Davison’s immoral lawyer — and hate to admit a fascination in watching their twisted actions unfold.
“Homage” appears misconceived. The intention and craft are evident, but it’s been weighted incorrectly and told from a skewed perspective.