House of Satisfaction
Director: Jesse Hartman
Writer: Jesse Hartman (story), Greg Takoudes (screenplay)
“New York fairy tale” House of Satisfaction takes director Jesse Hartman’s real-life club and music as inspiration, setting up camp inside Mo Pitkin’s House of Satisfaction, and turning Hartman’s band Laptop into an underground legend. Content-wise, it’s unclear where fact and fiction part, but to be fair, that has little bearing on the success of the film. You don’t have to be a Hartman fan to appreciate his first feature, but you do, have to be enchanted enough to buy the whole washout genius routine at the heart of it. – and that is exactly where Hartman lost me.
The plot unfolds during a weekend at Pitkin’s, wherein Jesse “Limbo” comes face to face with old ghosts and new foes as he hides out with a stash of stolen Benjamins in his backpack. A former rocker with a hit album nobody remembers, Limbo now walks the streets as an urban junkie as down-and-out as they come. When he stumbles upon a drug deal in a rundown hideout, Jesse seizes the opportunity and comes out with suitcase full of cash and a bag of heroin, shaves his beard, and hightails it to NY. His goal? Find the teenage son he’s never met, and dish out his inheritance, skid row style. The plan is complicated when club owner and former manager Mo Pitkin informs Jesse that his ex-wife and son are sans abri, and he must wait for their weekly appearance at the club’s Sunday evening open mic. With nowhere to go, Jesse crashes at the club, where he butts heads with Mo’s young girlfriend, gets high as a kite, and opens old wounds, all while dodging the possible appearance of the thugs he held up.
Soundtrack aside, House of Satisfaction is neither bad-ass, nor creative enough to triumph in its genre. Its ode to the grit of the New York music scene falls short of the real dirt and verve behind the music, and Hartman, as Jesse Limbo, is not nearly as tough as the role demands. Add to that the cheesy performance put in by Santo Fazio as Mo, a claustrophobic set, and the usual junkie visuals, and you’ve got one watered-down cup of joe. As for the music, it does add dimension to the film, though it won’t stick out as anything remarkable. I understand he’s got his own little following, but it doesn’t quite have the punch required to set it apart from any number of rock and roll movies.
Sure, House of Satisfaction has its charms – a genuinely quirky line-up on stage, the cute face of wannabe-rockstar Frankie, and Hartman’s resonant voice. But after awhile Frankie gets on your nerves, and the rest just isn’t enough to merit much attention from the film world. A New York fairy tale? This cute little bundle rings suspiciously like Hartman’s love letter to himself. It just so happens New York is also in the picture.