Paul Marcarelli, the writer of Clutter, shared with the audience after the world premiere showing in Seattle that he originally had planned to write a film about a home stager breaking into her career. Instead, Marcarelli birthed the first film to focus fully on hoarding disorder (HD) and the effects of living and growing up in a hoarded home. The Bradford family is really no different than most other American families, searching for the next “thing” to make them feel good enough, safe enough, something enough. Carol Kane (Taxi, Beetlejuice) takes on the role of Linda Bradford, a mother whose collection-ing is intensified by a traumatic life event, leaving her to raise three children in a home that has everything except enough room to breathe.
“You’ll have to take me out of here kicking and screaming!”
Linda warns her adult children after the home is condemned due to the overaccumulation of stuff and the visitors such living has attracted. Faced with becoming homeless, Charlie (Joshua Leonard), Lisa (Natasha Lyonne), and Penny (Halley Feiffer) work to remedy the home situation while keeping Linda away and distracted as they attempt the futile attempt of clearing the hoard. The effects of hoarding disorder on Linda and her children is poignantly carried through the dysfunction in every area of their lives, not simply their interactions with each other and in the home. The film offers a fresh glimpse into what happens when a family home boasts no safe place for family members to retreat from the harsh realities of life.
Kane captured the eccentricities of the hoarding-disordered mother brilliantly, which is no shock to me given her knack for selling off-the-wall characters as commonplace and normal. Personally, I could not have asked for a different actress to play this role as we have been told my mother, also a hoarder, reminds many people of Kane. Additionally, Leonard walks the fine line of dysfunction, angry brother, and enabling son with the finesse of a child who has lived this lifestyle. Lyonne and Feiffer deliver solid performances of the black sheep and the invisible child, respectively.
Perhaps what this film does best is to present a less extreme view of a family affected by hoarding disorder than what has been brought to the masses previously. Rest assured the home is sufficiently cluttered to merit the destruction of healthy relationships witnessed in this family, but also know that gross filth, extreme personality-disordered parenting, and unlikable characters are absent. The movie is funny at points without losing the realism of the family dynamic to overt comedy. Other moments captured the dirty aspects of life perfectly, revealing broken interactions that brought this adult daughter of a hoarder to tears. Although the film’s purpose is not to educate, Marcarelli and Diane Crespo (director) have created a film that offers a truly realistic look into the home situation in hoarding disorder.