David Duchovny is an intelligent fellow. He went to Princeton and was studying for a PhD at Yale when acting grabbed him for good, bringing him fame as Agent Fox Mulder on "The X-Files," a TV hit of preternatural popularity.
After learning some requisite skills behind the camera on a handful of "X-Files" episodes, Duchovny's first feature film, "House of D," arrives in theaters this week, after debuting at the Tribeca Film Festival last year. I'm sorry to report it's the opposite of impressive.
In addition to directing, Duchovny wrote the screenplay for "House of D," which appears to be a very personal project - beginning with its title, which refers to "house of detention" but also happens to contain the letter D, his initial. And then there's the cast, which includes Duchovny along with his real-life spouse, Téa Leoni, who plays a mother in flashback scenes.
Duchovny portrays Tom, a man who has emigrated from New York to Paris in hopes of distancing himself from memories of his troubled adolescence. These are stirred up afresh as his son approaches his 13th birthday, leading to a long string of flashbacks.
They center on teenage Tom's relationship with his widowed mother, who's drowning her grief with painkillers, and his companionship with a mentally challenged janitor, who joins him in various merry pranks until they fall out over Tom's first girlfriend. Also present (sort of) is a barely glimpsed prostitute who develops an odd friendship with Tom by hollering to him from a jail-cell window in the House of D.
Duchovny does a decent job of recreating Greenwich Village in the 1970s, and Anton Yelchin is fun to watch as young Tom, although Mr. D.'s fans will be disappointed with how little screen time he gives himself as the character's grown-up version.
Less fun to watch is Robin Williams as the janitor, a sadly implausible figure. Why couldn't Duchovny's screenplay make him at least a little believable? That's an enigma only Agent Mulder could solve. And he's not in this movie.
• Rated PG-13; contains sex, drugs, and vulgarity.