If you love someone to the point of demanding their complete, constant attention, even to the point of threatening the loved one’s happiness, can you still call that love? That’s the question lurking around every corner of “Loverboy,” Kevin Bacon’s witty and effective, yet squirm-inducing, directorial debut.
Adapted by Hannah Shakespeare from the novel by Victoria Redel, “Loverboy” is primarily concerned with Emily Stoll (Kyra Sedgwick). Independently wealthy, she seems permanently damaged by a big problem in her upbringing: her parents were too much in love. As played in flashback by Marisa Tomei and Kevin Bacon, they are so deliriously wrapped up in each other, that their daughter (Sosie Bacon) is nothing but a third wheel.
Like many children of dysfunctional marriages, grown-up Emily goes on to make the opposite error. She devotes her life exclusively to her young son. No husband or boyfriend is allowed – men are there pretty much to inseminate her and move on. There is no job to distract her (she’s independently wealthy). In fact, there’s nothing at all except constant attention to the needs of her son Paul, a.k.a. Loverboy.
Miraculously, six year-old Paul (Dominic Scott Kay) is not a spoiled basket case, but a smart, otherwise ordinary kid who wants to grow up. Emily can’t admit that anything about her son is any way ordinary, and she can’t let him mature since that requires him having contact with others. Although she teaches her son many fine things, including courage, she is nevertheless the leader of a two-person cult and Paul will not knowingly drink the Kool-Aid.
With an appropriately tense undertone of dread and a strong cast of indie regulars including Campbell Scott, Blair Brown, Oliver Platt and Matt Dillon, “Loverboy” benefits from a lively use of mostly period music — especially young Sosie Bacon’s acapella interpretation of David Bowie’s “Life on Mars.”
Still, “Loverboy” is not really a home run. While I can’t fault Kyra Sedgwick’s performance, her character becomes increasingly fearsome, another in a long line of hurtful movie moms. It seems clear by the end that the film wants us to love her, despite her selfishness. I couldn’t.