Director: Rob Moretti
Writers: Paul Jacks, Rob Moretti
Genre: Drama, Biography
Duration: 88 min
Stars: Eben Gordon, Rob Moretti, Juanita Walsh
By Don Willmott on Tuesday 1st November 2005
Two facts to ponder: Crutch is "based on a true story," and Rob Moretti is not only one of the lead actors but also the writer, director, editor, and producer. The result: Crutch comes across as an extremely personal exorcism of Moretti's suburban gothic adolescence, for better and for worse. Like the scribblings in a teenager's diary, the film vacillates between insight and exaggeration.
Moretti has quite a story to tell. Sixteen-year-old David (Eben Gordon), the surrogate for Moretti, lives in a broken home with his rapidly deteriorating alcoholic mother (Juanita Walsh) and two sullen siblings. Dad (James Earley) lives across town with another woman, and the family's method for coping with all this drama is to maintain a chilly silence. When not scribbling frantically in his well-worn diary, David finds distractions with his pretty girlfriend Julia (Jennifer Laine Williams). Together, they sign up for an acting class led by new-in-town thirtysomething Kenny (Moretti) and his sidekick Maryann (Jennifer J. Katz). Within minutes, Kenny starts a not-so-subtle dance of seduction with David, who is too distracted by his family problems to pick up on the signals... at first.
Once David's mom is tossed into rehab, David, feeling adrift, starts clinging to Kenny, and before long, the two are happily intertwined in a drug-fueled affair. "I was impressionable," David says in his retrospective narration. Meanwhile, Maryann tells Kenny, "All I'm saying is that you should be careful."
Indeed. Kenny, who we learn was a successful actor who lost it all in a shameful spiral of drugs and self-hatred, is an utterly unsympathetic (but good-looking) lout, a sexual predator who spends half the film committing various felonies and misdemeanors, albeit with the consent of young David. Looking for advice as the relationship sours, David turns to Zack (Tim Loftus), a local bookshop clerk whose over-the-top swishiness, the likes of which hasn't been seen on screen since The Boys in the Band, stops the film dead in its tracks not once but twice. It's an egregious directorial mistake in a film that otherwise does a great job of capturing the gritty textures of a typical middle-class New Jersey suburb.
How strange it must have been for Moretti to write and then play the role of the man who seduced him as a teenager. Unlike the other characters in the film, the Kenny he's created is one-dimensional, a troublemaker who keeps making trouble and who doesn't earn a bit of understanding or forgiveness from the audience. You have to wonder if the man who inspired the character of Kenny will see this film and what he'll think of it. (For a much more nuanced portrayal of a suburban pedophile on the loose, see the fascinating L.I.E.)
Crutch does succeed in creating an intimacy with the audience. The story is so personal that you can't help but feel like a voyeur trapped in the small houses and apartments where most of the action takes place. When Mom splits open her chin in a drunken stupor and blood spreads everywhere as David helps her down the stairs, you almost want to wipe the blood off your own hands.
It's hard to believe that Moretti's real-life experience was quite as dramatic as the melodrama he's written, but Crutch has its moments, and at least you know that Moretti made it through his troubles and became a productive moviemaker. There could have been far unhappier endings.
Crutch in the clutch.