Kevin Bacon has been within zero degrees of separation from so many great filmmakers that it's remarkable how virtually every decision he makes as director of Loverboy is completely misguided. The tone bobbles uneasily from offbeat comedy to hysterical psychodrama, the period touches are broad to the point of grotesquerie, the atonal score (by his brother Michael) calls attention to itself, the blurry haze of the photography looks cheap rather than evocative, and a distracting cast of A-list actors fill out seemingly every minor role. And yet this laundry list of creative and technical blunders leaves out the film's most critical mistake, which is that its central character—a babying mother who shields her son from the outside world—seems inhuman instead of misguided. As played by Bacon's wife Kyra Sedgwick, she at times appears as willfully psychotic as Amy Sedaris in Strangers With Candy.
Based on the Victoria Redel novel, Loverboy leaps around the timeline in order explain how Sedgwick went from the privileged daughter of swinging parents (Bacon and Marisa Tomei) to a woman who believes her sole purpose in life is to raise a child. As the film opens, a tarted-up Sedgwick goes from city to city, looking for the combined genetic gifts of numerous men to make one special child, under the logic that "many men equals no father." After her numerous sexual conquests yield a miscarriage, a passionate one-night-stand with a charming conventioneer (Campbell Scott) results in a precious son nine months later. Drawing from inherited money, Sedgwick devotes every waking moment to enacting her idealistic and whimsical notions of parenthood on her son. But when the boy reaches six, he starts to wonder why he's out of school, why he can't play with other kids, and why his crazy mother keeps calling him "Loverboy."
Movies so rarely express any ambiguity about motherhood that Loverboy seems like a blown opportunity, because Bacon never finds that gray area between Sedgwick's bright intentions for her son and her overprotective derangement. Though he labors endlessly to account for her behavior, which is explained away by flashbacks to her decadent parents and a glamorous mother-figure played under Vaseline lens by an uncredited Sandra Bullock, Bacon fails to make her seem human. After all, Sedgwick's problems really aren't that far removed from those of ordinary parents who have trouble reconciling their hopeful vision for their children with how the kids actually turn out. Yet watching Sedgwick calls to mind a persistent question: How does this horrible woman feel about wire hangers?