A engaging and comedic take on the punk rock lifestyle.
The greatest aspect of decidedly punk movies is their unabashed honesty. Even those that don’t deal with the music genre can take on a punk vibe merely through the tone and attitude. These films’ ability to approach every facet of life realistically instead of cinematically often makes for a visceral experience that even those who don’t engage in the particular lifestyle can appreciate. Homemakers, the feature debut of writer-director Colin Healey, delivers a more comedic take on the punk rock lifestyle while simultaneously keeping things genuine.
As an eccentric front-woman for an experimental punk band, Irene (Rachel McKeon) has never had many adult responsibilities. All of that changes, though, when she inherits her late grandfather’s rotting home. Desperately wanting to sell the house, Irene is forced to renovate—and finally grow up in the process. The arrival of her long-lost cousin (Jack Culbertson) adds its own set of challenges that bring to light a series of deeply buried familial issues.
Homemakers provides a fascinating ride for the first act, filled with humor and grimness as Irene sloppily trashes what’s left of the house. It’s not until Irene’s rich, corporate family enters the picture that the previously obnoxious character begins to become oddly sympathetic. Her pervasive disdain to fit in with society prevents Irene from being the most relatable person out there, but her inability to relate to her family members, and struggle to find her place in the world still manages to hit close to home in a truly believable way. A strong and humorously bold performance from McKeon carries the film, and makes even the more mundane sequences appear at least somewhat fascinating. Seamlessly bridging the gap between comical and cinematic, and realistic and natural, McKeon has a unique and effective screen presence. Similarly, most of the actors in the cast of unknowns are quite good, contributing to Healey’s occasionally documentary-like approach.
The real heart of Homemakers can be found in a handful of peculiar scenes that find Irene singing in front of vastly differing audiences—with and without a backing band. Despite being relatively lost in the world, the young woman always seems to be herself when she has a microphone and an audience. While the music may not be what one might expect from a “punk” movie—there certainly isn’t anyone stage-diving to Irene’s music—it’s still against-the-grain, underground noisiness that quickly establishes Irene and her acquaintances as non-mainstream musicians. They won’t be winning any Grammys any time soon, and that’s what makes the band so fun to watch.
Moments of overt sexual perversion are an unexpectedly graphic addition to the film, despite the fact that there isn’t anything particularly erotic about Homemakers. Most of the sexual sequences seem to be played for laughs, which only adds to the general awkwardness of the film as a whole. Perhaps the strangest scene in the film occurs later on as a completely unlikable character removes his genitals and presents them to Irene as a sort of sexual taunt. Her reaction is equally satisfying and hilarious, and cements the film as being a bizarre slice-of-life indie.
A co-release from FilmBuff and Factory 25, filmgoers who are familiar with either of those distributors will probably know just what to expect here. Character-driven, conversation-heavy, and just weird enough to appear believable. Longtime fans of these types of films will undoubtedly be able to appreciate what the filmmakers are going for. With Homemakers, Healey has created a fascinating piece of cinema that, despite clearly not being for everyone, has a lead character that’s so engaging that it simply must be seen.
Homemakers is now available to stream on Fandor