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With: Ellen Burstyn, Nick Offerman, Asa Butterfield, Alex Wolff, Maude Apatow, Michaela Watkins
Written by: Peter Livolsi, based on a novel by Peter Bognanni
Directed by: Peter Livolsi
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 85
Date: 04/26/2018

The House of Tomorrow (2018)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Bucky Numbers

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

As a coming-of-age story, this is a little too cute and neat, especially given that it's about shabby, edgy punk rock, but its flawless casting and chemistry lend it a goodwill that's hard to resist.

In The House of Tomorrow, Sebastian (Asa Butterfield) has been raised and home-schooled by grandmother Josephine (Ellen Burstyn) in a geodesic dome house designed by the late R. Buckminster Fuller; Josephine knew "Bucky" when he was alive, and together, she and Sebastian conduct tours while avoiding the outside world. A tour bus arrives filled with a church youth group, led by Alan (Nick Offerman) and including Alan's rebellious, moody son Jared (Alex Wolff).

Jared is a recent heart recipient, and his overprotective father won't let him overtax himself. Nonetheless, Jared offers to give Sebastian "punk rock" lessons, and as they become mismatched friends, they decide to start their own punk band. Sebastian begins to sneak away from his grandma to practice, and eventually lies to her in order to play a show at the dome. Meanwhile, Sebastian finds himself stirred by Jared's catty, but cute, sister Meredith (Maude Apatow).

Adapted from a novel by Peter Bognanni, The House of Tomorrow is the feature debut of writer/director Peter Livolsi, and it's a clean, polished little gem, with no offending edges; whether real-life teens will recognize any of the behaviors of these movie teens remains to be seen, but they're certainly likable. Butterfield and Wolff make fun opposites, with Butterfield conveying a life of sheltered inexperience.

Wolff, meanwhile, expresses a full appreciation of a music genre that ignited well before his lifetime (his room is decorated like a 1980s club, scrawled with deep-listen band names). Likewise, Burstyn is tough and wonderful (a real-life photograph shows that she, in fact, knew Fuller) and Offerman manages to be his usual snidely funny self while still conveying a father's care and concern.

Livolsi uses the dome house like a wonderland, making it seem like a special place, and the opposite of the other locations in the movie; he develops a physical struggle between spaces. Overall, there's not much at stake and not much is risked, but The House of Tomorrow is a home where the heart is.

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