Group Home (2007) – By Duane L. Martin

I must admit, when I first heard about group home, it didn’t sound like it was going to be all that good, or at the very least not my cup of tea.  Fortunately, this film was one of those films that will surprise you with how good it actually is.

Group Home is the story of two guys who are in jail for alcohol related, relatively minor crimes.  They’re not really bad guys, so the guy at the jail gives them a way out…kinda.  See, there’s this group home that houses developmentally disabled people, and they use non-violent prisoners as care workers.  The two guys accept the job because it’s a way out of jail for them.  The thing is, they’re put in electro-shock ankle bracelets by the company that runs the group home.  If they get outside of a certain range, they’ll get shocked super hard.  Still, it’s a way out, and it could be worse.  They could still be in jail.  Turns out the jail officials didn’t know about the shock bracelets the group home company was using, but we don’t find out about that until later.

Anyway, the two guys go to the home and encounter a wide variety of strange people, both staff and home residents.  There’s two other guys who work in the house that our two guys are assigned to.  One is like a human sloth.  All he does is watch tv, sleep and do drugs.  He doesn’t do a single thing to help the people he’s supposed to be caring for.  The other guy is the one I refer to as naked guy.  Why?  Because he’s naked…all the time.  Yes, full frontal naked.  He also has a really bizarre and quirky personality and way of speaking that makes it sound like he’s hopped up on speed all the time.  This guy was actually my favorite character in the movie and turned in just an amazing performance.

So our two guys walk into a mess.  One of the first things they encounter is a guy who’s totally paralyzed and covered in his own feces.  They get him cleaned up and take care of him, which shows us that these two guys are decent guys.  Throughout the course of the movie, they do their best to take care of the residents.  Unfortunately, they don’t have a very pleasant ending.  I don’t want to spoil it.  They don’t die or anything, but what happens to them is just wrong, and really not cool.

Anyway, what we have here is a film that’s full of really believable characters and amazing performances.  There are a few performances here and there that aren’t stellar, but they’re not bad either, and are totally covered over by the rest of the cast who are just above and beyond anything I expected.  Something else in this film that was kind of fun for me is that there are appearances by three former Rogue Cinema Sleepover Girls.  I was kind of surprised by that, but pleasantly so!  Rachel Grub, Heather Amos and Brooke Lemke each had relatively small parts in the film, but it was great to see them in there.  Rachel had the most notable part of the three, playing the drug dealing, drugged out ho (and single mom) who ran the group home and had everyone under her thumb.  She was great, and one part involving her and a breast pump was really funny.

The film is shot in black and white and looks quite good.  The lighting is good and the sound and dialogue are generally clear and understandable, although there are some quiet bits that are somewhat hard to hear.  The editing moves the film along at a good pace and aside from (I think) just one edit that seemed awkward to me, was quite well done.

I think the only issue I had with this movie (aside from the ending, which didn’t really work for me) was the fact that people were recycled in different roles.  It seemed a little awkward.  I would have preferred if they had just found extra actors to take on those roles rather than recycling people.  Still, for some reason, and I assume most people are like this, when you see the same person in a different role, you tend not to think about it as long as they’re doing a good job with it.  They just kinda become whoever you’re seeing them as at the moment and you sort of shuffle the other character you saw them as into the background of your mind as you watch.  So it really wasn’t so bad.  It’s certainly nothing that hurt the film in any major way, and with a cast this large, I’m not really surprised they had to recycle a few people in different roles.

Group home is, like I said earlier, an unexpectedly great film.  Congratulations to the film makers, cast and crew for producing a really fine piece of work.  It may not sound like your cup of tea just from the description, but trust me, this is one of those films that you get sucked into and it doesn’t let you go until it’s over.

I was unable to locate a specific web page for this film, but there is a Longcoat Films MySpace page http://www.myspace.com/longcoatfilms.  Group Home will be available on IndieFlix.com starting March 5th, 2008 if you’d like to check it out for yourself.