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August 2010

Homecoming

cast: Mischa Barton, Matt Long, Jessica Stroup, and Michael Landes

director: Morgan J. Freeman

88 minutes (15) 2009
widescreen ratio 2.35:1
Momentum DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 5/10
review by Ian Sales

Homecoming

Morgan J. Freeman should not be confused with Morgan Freeman the actor. That middle 'J' belongs to the director of more than a dozen films, most of which have been successful at Sundance. However, if Homecoming is typical of his oeuvre, I'm not sure I understand why. It's not that it's a bad film - it is, in fact, well-made and its cast is very good. But it is neither original nor fresh.

Mike (Matt Long), high school American football star, returns to his hometown, Mount Bliss, Pennsylvania, after three months at university because his high school is going to retire his football jersey number. With him, Mike takes his girlfriend Elizabeth (Jessica Stroup). En route, he warns her that things might be a bit uncomfortable because his high school girlfriend, Shelby (Mischa Barton), seems to think the two of them are still in a relationship.

The pair arrive in Mount Bliss and are met by Mike's cousin Billy (Michael Landes), the local policeman. They agree to accompany him to the bowling alley, owned by Shelby, for drinks. Unsurprisingly, in private conversation with Mike, Shelby is far from happy that their relationship is no more. Surprisingly, she then seems more than welcoming to Elizabeth. So much so, she befriends Elizabeth and plies her with tequila.

When Mike and Elizabeth come to leave, Elizabeth refuses to go home with Mike because she is drunk and doesn't wish to meet his parents in that state. Shelby has implied that Mike's parents are strong on first impressions. Instead, Mike and Billy drop off Elizabeth at the local motel.

The follow morning, there's no sign of Elizabeth. She did not even check in to the motel. Mike is worried, but not too much - there's very little that could happen to her in Mount Bliss - except, of course, he had not figured on Shelby...

Freeman should have titled his film 'Psycho Ex-Girlfriend'. Because that's what it is. Shelby goes off the deep end. She was never entirely sane to begin with, as is made abundantly clear - her shrine to Mike, hints that she poisoned her own mother. Shelby has kidnapped Elizabeth - albeit not entirely with malice aforethought.

Turned away from the motel at which she was dropped by Mike and Billy, Elizabeth heads down the road to the next one five miles away... only to be hit accidentally by Shelby in her pick-up truck. Shelby takes Elizabeth home to see to her injuries, but then keeps her prisoner. And with Elizabeth out of the way, Shelby then tries to work her way back into Mike's affections. Of course it all goes wrong. It's a law of cinema that psycho ex-girlfriends always get their comeuppance.

What some might see as the inexorable unfolding of the plot; others are likely to see as clich´┐Ż. There doesn't seem to be anything new that Homecoming brings to this particular story. It's a polished example of its type, but that's not enough. Which is something of a shame as Mischa Barton is certainly an actress with a career to watch.

I'm not entirely convinced she is well cast here - her Shelby is convincingly scary, but she also seems a little too upmarket for small-town America. And then there's that weird accent, sort of 80 percent US English and 20 percent British. Matt Long plays a bland character blandly - but, while Mike may be the hero, Shelby is the star. Jessica Stroup is feisty and engaging. Michael Landes is good. Barton, however, dominates the film, and not just because Shelby dominates the story. That's why she's an actress to watch. Without Mischa Barton, Homecoming would not be worth watching.



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