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This week:
House of D
Riding the Bus With My Sister

Filthy says:
"So fucking special you'll want to shit yourself."

My weekend was like most. It started retarded, ended retarded, and the middle was a vague haze. My original plan for this weekend was to see Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Friday night, then spend Saturday drunk on malt liquor bought with my Ray-o-Vac battery rebate checks. Finally, a lifetime of refusing to buy alkalines pays off. Hung over and unfocused on Sunday, I would write my review.

Then something magical happened. Something so magical it can only be described as special. Maybe two or three times in a life do fortunes converge and make a weekend as wonderful as this one. My first was the weekend Mrs. Filthy said yes when I proposed, and the Rockies had Dollar Hot Dog Night. The second was when I found cases of uneaten taquitos and punctured cans of generic mayonnaise behind the 7-11.

On the same weekend that David Duchovny's directorial debut, the mentally-handicapped janitor dramedy House of D, came to Denver CBS kicked off sweeps month in grand fashion with Rosie O'Donnell as a loud, fat mongoloid in Riding the Bus With My Sister. God bless TV movies.

It was a weekend like my cousin Larry always sings about. "It's raining retards! Hallelujah, it's raining retards! Is that your final answer! Scrubbing bubbles!" It was also a perfect opportunity to spend some quality time with Hollywood's interpretation of the mentally challenged. And also, a chance to compare two actors of approximately equal inabilities: Robin Williams and O'Donnell.

House of D is a painfully insincere attempt at earnestness by director/writer/star David Duchovny. It really helped me understand why movies in general are so fucking shitty: because the actors are morons. Stars like Duchovny constantly complain about a dearth of good material, and then when given the chance to make something, they crap out a massive turd like this. House of D thing is so fucking awful, amateurish and incomprehensible that it shouldn't even be in junior college film festivals, let alone commercial theaters. It's a lead balloon dragging the mawkish corpse of Robin Williams over the glass shards of contrived poignance.

As almost all trite stories are, House of D is narrated in voiceover and flashback by a man reconsidering his life. Duchovny, an artist living in Paris, recalls his life as a 13-year-old boy in New York. We know he lives in Paris because he rides his bike by the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame. Yes, everything here is that obvious. The 13-year old version of himself is best friends with a retarded janitor played by Robin Williams, who reminds me of the damaged tins of meat we used to sell at the Family Dollar: ham swimming in little curly black hairs. I will point out that this idea of what a 13-year-old is like is one of the most off-base and absurd I have ever seen. One moment the kid is in his pajamas making bombing noises as he aims his pee at cigarette butts in a toilet. The next he is having profound discussions with pimps. In general, Duchovny shows about as strong a grip on the real world as an autistic boy living alone in a bomb shelter.

The boy is saddled with a histrionic, depressed mother (Tea Leoni) who we know will commit suicide after it is foreshadowed, oh, a dozen or so times. As the boy grows older he and Williams grow more distant. Williams, being retarded, can't mature, but the boy becomes interested in girls. He is coached along by a wise prostitute with a heart of gold (Erykah Badu) locked up in the "House of D", a women's detention center. She helps him win girls' hearts from her high window, using a shard of mirror to look down on him. When his mother dies, the young Duchovny steals an old lady's money and runs away to Paris. Maybe a more interesting movie would be about how he got into France without a passport, or how he survived to adulthood in a country he's never seen, on a handful of crumpled bills and with a limited knowledge of French.

Back to the present in Paris, the grown Duchovy has missed his teen son's birthday. Like so many things, the movie doesn't really explain why. Instead, his is son asleep in a courtyard and the estranged wife is chewing Duchovny out in front of a building full of cute Frogs watching and commenting from their windows as he finally reveals that it's not his fault. He tells his wife, for the first time how he was scarred by his retarded best friend, his fucked up mom and his heart-of-gold hooker.

Of course, the wife tells him to go back to America and make everything right. I have no fucking idea why. I have this sneaking suspicion that Duchovny doesn't either. Just that every bad coming-of-age flashback movie has this sort of closure. So he goes back to find the now-aged hooker and tell her he turned out okay, and to find a much older but still retarded Williams. Now, here's my question: if he is all fucked up because of this burning secret he's held so tight for so long, why is the whole point of his return trip to tell the whore and Williams that he turned out okay after all? And why would his estranged wife and son come all the way from France to see that? "Hey, honey, I know things have been awkward between us. But, if you just fly across the ocean to meet my retarded friend, I think everything will be all right. He's magical." What a fucking load of crap.

The narration is strewn with gallstones of wisdom that Duchovny pisses out in bloody shards. There's some long-winded explanation of growing up being like a combination lock and you have to get the tumblers all lined up. Maybe it sounded wise to a hack TV actor several years removed from the limelight, but it's tedious and cutesy. The characters are so stock and tiresome, and their actions make no sense. They all do unbelievable things driven by the hand of Duchovny, shepherding them to moments of revelation. So many valuable lessons can be learned from retards, especially when they act nothing like real ones. Hell, why the fuck not make it a talking dog as long as it's so obviously fantasy?

In CBS's unwatchable but better, Riding the Bus with my Sister Rosie O'Donnell and friends crib generously from Rainman. O'Donnell plays a loud, large retarded woman who likes to ride the bus all day and make friends with drivers and other passengers. My only question is, what took her so long? I mean, what else is she qualified to play? She looks at home in a bad perm and "Strawberry Shortcake" T-shirts. Actually, she's never looked better.

The story is set with sepia-toned flashbacks that reveal the tragic truth of McDowell and O'Donnell's lives; they didn't have childhoods, just a series of melodramatic cliches. When O'Donnell's father has a heart attack, her professional, polished workaholic sister (Andie McDowell) has to come take care of her. McDowell must give up her lucrative yuppie lifestyle to make sure her little sister is okay. But, ho ho! Who takes care of whom? Sure, O'Donnell is the one you have to keep from eating a jar of Vaseline, but McDowell learns hard-won lessons about love and life. And who better to teach them than a retard? Or, rather, a potentially retarded celebrity hamfisting her way to a very special Emmy? Oh, man, I hope she goes to claim it in character.

Living with O'Donnell, McDowell has the inside track on all the hunky bus drivers, and she's like a kid in a candy store, quickly locking lips with one. O'Donnell's retarded boyfriend is mugged. I don't really know what that was for, but if network TV can show the disabled getting the shit kicked out of them, they should also be allowed to show tits. It is also revealed that McDowell talked her sister into getting her tubes tied many years earlier. Although O'Donnell and her boyfriend are a couple, we are spared the sight of them ever being affectionate. That would be fucking terrifying not because O'Donnell is playing retarded, but because O'Donnell is O'Donnell. And O'Donnell is a fucking pig.

In the end, McDowell returns to her own life, wiser and warmer thanks to getting to know the sister she loathed, and drinking from the spit fount she spews forth. She even gets her old boyfriend back, exploits her sister through her photography, is declared a genius and gets pregnant.

I liked Riding the Bus with my Sister a hell of a lot better than House of D because it was a more straightforward and traditional misrepresentation of the mentally disabled. It didn't try to get fancy or pretentious. It just said that retards are adorable, cuddly and as stuffed with wisdom as a John Kenneth Galbraith pinata. House of D was so damn busy trying to find itself that it lost focus of its central point: that retards are as magical as pixies, fairies and naked cheerleaders.

This one-speed louder-is-better acting style was made for O'Donnell. In fact, I got the sense she was ad-libbing, really getting into the retardation. The mismatched pastel sneakers, and the scene of her crying while eating donuts on a bus bench are icing on the cake. It scared my dog. If watching a retarded woman crying at a burial turns you on, as it does for many of us, you must see this movie. It is the most erotic thing since Candy Bottoms ended her "Short Bus Bangers" series in 1987.

I think most people should be disgusted with Hollywood's "Precious Moments" portrayals of the retarded. It fucking pisses me off. Retards are people too, and they are people with serious problems. They are not cuddly pals who always teach us how to be better people. Sometimes they repeat themselves for hours and hours. Sometimes they shit their pants. What lesson is there to be learned from that, other than to cover everything with plastic? But, Hollywood keeps trotting them out to prop them up as something they arenít. It think it has little to do with helping us understand mental disabilities, and a shitload to do with Hollywood wanting to feel good about themselves. Maybe they find it easier to act retarded than actually help the retarded. Or maybe they'd rather just approximate what goes on in families with handicapped members then spend time with them. Either way, fuck off, Hollywood. Use a monkey, a dwarf or anything but the helpless retarded.

The question on everyone's mind is this: who makes a better retard, O'Donnell or Williams? Really, they are both so natural at it. Williams comes from the school where retards have a well of warmth and wisdom just behind their eyes. The character's inadvertent wisdom comes from someplace deep inside. He apes and grins and acts so hard you think he's going to bust a blood vessel. It's like there is a little man in his face who is trying to get out. O'Donnell takes a different tact. She's as blank as her character. She's loud, monotonous and continually self-amused. Her wisdom is purely accidental, the product of saying the first thing that comes into her mind. One Finger for House of D, and Two Fingers for Riding the Bus With My Sister.

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Mark S. Allen of UPN

Miss Congeniality 2 is "Charming, funny, and even better than the original!"

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is "Mind-blowingly brilliant! Fascinating, funny and relentlessly awe-inspiring!"

Filthy's Reading
Mike Sager - Scary Monster and Super Freaks

Listening to
Pitchfork - Eucalyptus


Beat the Devil