A tale of a poor, spunky widow and her six children, “A Home of Our Own” is a tepid 1990s combo of “Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore” and “Places in the Heart.” Audiences will likely find no particular reason to see such a family drama on the big screen, since in scope, scale and production values it perfectly befits TV, where similar inspirational tales are often shown.
Pic had world premiere Wednesday during opening night at the Hamptons Film Festival. As Frances Lacey, Kathy Bates plays a variation on the roles that won Oscars for both Ellen Burstyn and Sally Field. In 1962 L.A., Bates gets fired from her assembly line job after stirring up chaos as the result of a sexually charged prank played on her. It seems like the right time to begin a new life, and Bates hates L.A.
She thus hits the road with her six moppets, ranging in age from 5 to 15, feeding them the usual egg salad sandwiches. One day, spotting a dilapidated house in the middle of nowhere in Idaho, Bates stops the car, determined to buy it — even though she has no job or money. But she soon overcomes such problems with her resourcefulness and fast-talking.
The only new element in this formulaic tale is the language. Bates’ children know their mother so well that when she merely mentions her dead husband, they all say, as a well-rehearsed chorus, “goddamn vagabond Irish Catholic sonofabitch.”
Scripter Patrick Duncan borrows quite a few ideas from “Places in the Heart,” such as the need for strong family ties. If, in the Robert Benton saga, the group consisted of Sally Field, her kids, a blind man and a black man, here the extended family is composed of Bates, her children and a benevolent Japanese-American neighbor and landowner (SoonTeck-Oh).
“A Home of Our Own” is yet another mythic evocation set in 1962, a turning point in modern American history, except this time the focus is not youth, but the indomitable spirit of the working class. Director Tony Bill specializes in sentimental, old-fashioned movies “with a heart.” Though he isn’t as condescending to his bluer-collar protagonists as in his former outing, “Untamed Heart,” he still ends up glorifying their indefatigable soul and pride — the Lacey motto is, “We don’t accept charity, we pay our own.”
But Bill is good with his cast. Bates renders a solid, if not distinguished, performance.
Unfortunately, the handsome Edward Furlong, who was so impressive in “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” and “American Heart,” doesn’t have a role that tests his talent. Still, as the eldest son and man of the house, he gives his best to the easily anticipated situations and conflicts.
Excepting notable lensing by Jean Lepine, other tech credits are OK. A handkerchief or two may be needed for the Christmas sequence and other scenes.