Mischa Barton left The O.C. at the end of season three, perhaps a wise move considering the once-popular television series was fading quickly at that point. But even though she got out just in time, Barton has yet to make a name for herself as anyone but Marissa Cooper. Her latest film, the limited release thriller Homecoming, won't change that, though the movie itself is surprisingly easy to watch.
Homecoming is, essentially, a teen version of Misery, only without the acting talent of James Caan or Kathy Bates. In the movie, Mike (Matt Long) returns to his hometown with his college girlfriend Elizabeth (Jessica Stroup), but he soon runs into his ex-girlfriend Shelby (Barton), who doesn't truly believe she is an "ex." After a night of heavy drinking, Shelby happens to run into Elizabeth - literally - and the ex-girlfriend takes her injured replacement under her wing. Elizabeth becomes hostage to Shelby and her deteriorating mental state while Shelby works to convince Mike and others that Shelby doesn't need to be found.
Homecoming works on a visceral level. The pacing is fast, and, despite what has to be a pretty low budget, director Morgan J. Freeman does a pretty good job of keeping the scenes flowing and convincing. Though it never truly capitalizes on it, Homecoming maintains some decent sexual tension, something that does differentiate it from Misery (not that we needed sexual tension between the two characters in that film).
Unfortunately, Homecoming is a poor man's version of Misery, and it just can't compete. Its main problem is not that the movie is a teenage version of Misery, but that it must deal with some major plot holes. Unlike in Misery, where Caan's disappearance and subsequent lack of discovery made sense, Homecoming relies on Mike and others to believe that his girlfriend just decided to skip down. It really doesn't make sense why she would do this, or why her boyfriend - who had clearly been dating her long enough to bring her home to meet the parents - would believe this. This is a pretty gaping hole that only gets larger as the movie goes along.
If you can get past those issues, however, Homecoming is an entertaining piece of throwaway filmmaking. The acting is pretty decent (for this kind of film), and Barton plays the slightly psychotic Shelby well enough. In general, it's worth seeing, but don't expect to be blown away.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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