This is an absurd and strange comedy that hooked me at the beginning (weird in my book is a very good thing) but then it went off on so many tangents that it spoilt what I had thought/hoped would be a really funny wee movie.
Henry is the brilliant kid at the center of the story. He has an IQ rating that is off the charts and even aged just 10, manages to successfully complete the College Admissions Examination is just two minutes. Patricia his cookie mother, is a somewhat strident feminist who was the only girl in a very dysfunctional family. Her mother was inadvertently burned to death when the candles for Patricia’s birthday was lit when she was 10, and all but one of her siblings have since died. Her father however did stump up some $15000 so that Patricia could get a full test tube from the sperm bank so that she could have a baby without the need of a husband/boyfriend. Henry now wants to track down the donor i.e. his father, and thanks to his irascible Grandfather he manages to just do that.
Dad turns out to be a geeky College Professor who has just written a heavy tone on sexual identity in families much to the embarrassment of Audrey his 12-year-old stroppy daughter who is un-mercilessly taunted at school as a lesbian. Audrey is a good match as a sister for Henry in terms of eccentricity, and it’s just a pity that after establishing the connection, the plot just swirls out of control rather than build upon this.
That said there are odd moments when filmmaker Dennis Lee lets his very talented cast shine. Particularly Toni Colette as Patricia screaming when she discovers her baby is not a girl like the midwife had predicted, and Frank Moore as the creepy Grandfather and Henry’s confidant who could suddenly speak Spanish. The two child actors in the leads are pitch perfect especially Samantha Weinstein as the prickly and acerbic Audrey.
This movie was based on Lee's Student Academy Winning Short Film and maybe he should have left it at that. On reflection I guess this felt like a poor man’s Wes Anderson movie : it certainly appeared that's what had inspired writer/director Dennis Lee, it’s just a pity he missed the mark somewhat.
P.S. Film trivia. I was puzzled why Julia Roberts was the movie’s Executive Producer. Turns out that she starred in Lee’s first movie that came and went in a blink ‘Fireflies In The Garden’. But also her hubby Daniel Moder was the Cinematographer on this one! Hmmm.