Although they've been part of the film industry for well over two decades and have appeared in more than 60 movies between them, Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick remain perhaps Hollywood's least-known power couple. That's largely by design, as the pair has deliberately shunned the spotlight, preferring instead to lead quiet lives as working actors...albeit working actors who are on a first-name basis with such directors as Clint Eastwood and Ron Howard. Recently, they've taken a more proactive approach to their careers, independently developing projects that they produce and direct as well as act in. For their latest collaboration, Loverboy, they split the producing duties while Sedgwick takes on the lead role and Bacon steps behind the camera. Other family members turn up in the credits as well-the couple's two children have brief cameos and Kevin's brother Michael wrote the film's score. And if that's not enough, a series of well-known faces appear in minor roles, including Campbell Scott, Oliver Platt, Marisa Tomei and Sandra Bullock. Clearly Sedgwick and Bacon have done a good job keeping their Rolodex current.
Based on a novel by Victoria Redel, Loverboy tells the uncomfortable story of a mother who loves her young son too much. As a child, Emily (Sedgwick) grew up with a pair of parents (Tomei and Bacon) whose passion for each other often led them to neglect their daughter. When she reaches adulthood, Emily decides that she wants to find the one thing in the world that makes her passionate beyond all reason and lavish it with attention. That one thing turns out to be her son Paul (Dominic Scott Kay), the result of a one-night stand with a complete stranger. Emily is so enamored of her "Loverboy," she can't bear the thought of exposing him to the outside world. Instead, she raises Paul in almost total isolation; there are no play dates with other children from the neighborhood and she always accompanies him whenever they venture beyond the backyard. Emily isn't a malicious person at heart-she just wants the two of them to share every experience life has to offer together. By the time he turns six, however, Paul is ready to escape his mother's iron grip, begging her to send him to school and lashing out when she calls him by his nickname in public. Unable to accept the fact that her child is growing up, Emily's behavior grows more and more erratic, setting the stage for tragedy.
Emily is the kind of juicy lead role that most actresses "of a certain age" would kill for, but few would be able to balance the character's sympathetic and monstrous sides as well as Sedgwick does. She's always had a compelling screen presence, but it's only within the past few years that she's proven the extent of her dramatic chops in such films as Personal Velocity and The Woodsman. Sedgwick's deeply felt portrayal allows us to see the good Emily has done for Paul, even while we root for him to get away from her.
If only the rest of the film were as accomplished as her performance. The chief problem lies with Bacon's decision to shoot the movie as if it is taking place inside Emily's mind, complete with running narration and surrealistic flashbacks to her childhood. This sounds appropriate in theory, but it's executed clumsily, with the director relying too heavily on skewed camera angles and multiple film stocks to suggest the character's mental unbalance. His overly stylized direction is distracting at first and then quickly becomes oppressive; perhaps that was intentional on Bacon's part, but it also makes the film unpleasant to watch. The script (by debuting screenwriter Hannah Shakespeare...no relation) needs some more refining as well-there are a number of lines that might have worked on the page but sound faintly ridiculous coming out of the actors' mouths. While Sedgwick is almost reason enough to see Loverboy, her strong work here will hopefully guarantee her work in other, better movies in the near future.