We Say Westchester, Filmmakers Say Depresschester

Is the lower Hudson Valley really that depressing?



If you went to the movies over the holiday break, you might have the impression that this area is a grim one to live in.

Two late-December flicks are responsible for this bleak view. The first is All Good Things, starring Ryan Gosling and Kirsten Dunst and directed by Capturing the Friedmans’ Andrew Jarecki. Though the names are changed, the film is based on the real-life story of real estate mogul Robert Durst, suspected of killing his wife, Kathie.

In reality, Durst grew up in Scarsdale. In the movie, the town goes unnamed, but the palatial mansion the family gathers in looks cold and institutional, rather than warm and inviting. When the main character reveals that the house was also the site of his mother’s suicide, the place gets even more spooky.

Eventually, he and his wife buy a small weekend house in Westchester. Modern and snuggled up alongside a lake, it starts off having the cuddly feeling that the main character’s childhood manor lacks. But after a while, his wife spends more and more time at the lake house and less time with him at their apartment in the city — and Westchester becomes a symbol of their increased separation and isolation.

There you have it: Westchester real estate is cold, unfriendly, and full of broken families. Ouch!

Rabbit Hole, the new film starring Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart and directed by Hedwig and the Angry Inch’s John Cameron Mitchell, reinforces a similar view, although not so outright. The movie never actually clarifies where the events take place, although you can see a shot of the Yonkers police station, and the play clearly occurs in Larchmont. (The gorgeous waterfront house they used as a filming location, though, was in Douglaston, Queens.)

The film is about a struggling couple eight months after they lose their four-year-old son in a tragic traffic accident. Again, the house is a symbol: The film begins with Nicole Kidman’s character tending to her garden for the first time in months — a sign of healing, right? — until a neighbor accidentally steps on her newly planted bulb. When the couple argues over whether or not to pack up their son’s room, they’re really arguing about whether or not they’re ready to move on.

It’s all pretty heavy stuff.

What is it about this area — especially our houses — that makes filmmakers want to mope around so much? Is it because we’re known as a “bedroom community,” where the easiest stories to tell her are these bedroom dramas? Or maybe we all just give filmmakers the creeps. Next time you see someone toting a camera around in Westchester, for crying out loud, try to smile, wave, and act friendly!

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Marisa LaScala

Marisa LaScala
Elmsford, NY


Associate Editor Marisa LaScala joined Westchester magazine in 2003, and ever since she's blown every paycheck at the Greenburgh Multiplex. She also staunchly defends Richard Kelly, doesn't mind spoiling the endings of trashy movies you're curious about but don't want to pay to see, wishes the Hold Steady would come back and rock out Westchester, misses Arrested Development more than anyone can imagine, and still watches cartoons and Saturday Night Live. You can find more of her cultural criticism at www.popmatters.com, where she is a staff writer.

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