9 May 2005 | gradyharp
'Made for TV' Look and Substance - the Old Way
In a time when made for television films from HBO in particular and Showtime et al seem to be taking more chances with riskier topics than those flooding the theater screens, along comes CARRY ME HOME with a thud that hearkens back to the whiny tearjerkers of twenty years ago. While the premise of the story appears to be warm coming of age of a young girl with only a single mother to guide her growth, the film fragments with so many subplots that are quickly and incautiously pasted together in the end, resolving everything in a shallow overly sentimental and unsatisfying mess.
Marlboro, NY 1947, a time when the country is recovering from WW II, which includes the families of GIs killed in the war and the economy in ruins. Harriet (Penelope Ann Miller) keeps together her household of two children - Carrie (Ashley Rose Orr) and Brian (Harrison Chad) - by being a seamstress to the likes of Mrs. Gortimer (Jane Alexander), a town gossip and matchmaker who is advising Harriet to pay attention to the return of Bernard (David Alan Rasche) as a potential 'marrying kind'. Harriet spends her days working and remembering her GI husband killed in the war. Daughter Carrie is approaching puberty and yet refuses to behave like a girl, wearing her father's dogtags and jeans, running instead with a group of boys including her younger brother and two other lads. The 'gang' has a secret clubhouse, make mischief, taunt the mentally challenged neighbor Charlie (Kevin Anderson), unfortunate son of Grizzle (Leo Burmester) who abuses his unwanted son by forcing him to live in a barn. Charlie's only friends are the puppies he treasures. The destructive pranks played on pathetic Charlie include stealing one of his pups, destroying the food garden of Grizzle, pouring sugar in the gas tank of Grizzle's John Deere tractor, etc. In other words this little group of kids is cruel and their shenanigans are mean-spirited.
Harriet finds it impossible to control the behavior of Carrie and quite out of keeping with the 1940s family unit, Carrie sasses her mother viciously and in general is an unlikable brat. When Bernard begins his courtship of Harriet the prospect of Harriet's finding a modicum of happiness is undermined by Carrie's behavior. In a particularly cruel evening's prank, Grizzle's garden is destroyed, Charlie is reduced to self-mutilation because of the stealing of his pup, and the lowly barn in which he lives is destroyed by fire. Grizzle and Charlie survive and the effect of this final disaster on the lives of Harriet and her children and their 'emotional awakening' serves to make a hanky call and end the story with an unsatisfying bump.
The script by Christopher Fay is pedestrian, leaving the film with poorly motivated characters about whom it is difficult to care. Penelope Ann Miller tries her best to make the most out of Harriet, but Ashley Rose Orr renders one of the least likable young girls on film. This is a black and white script without motivation. Jace Alexander directs, which probably explains why his mother Jane Alexander consented to do the tiny walk-on part to give the film attention. The crew manages to make the mood of America in the post-war years plausible, but the dialogue assigned to the characters undermines those attempts. There must be an audience for these soap opera films: it is a shame this one couldn't have been better. Grady Harp