I was confused from the start with House of Cards. Kathleen Turner stars as the widowed parent Ruth Matthews to six year-old Sally and her older brother Michael. They are somewhere in Mexico preparing to return home to North Carolina after a three year absence.
The father, Alex died while they were in Mexico while on an archealogical dig of Mayan ruins. They stayed awhile longer in Mexico after the accident that Ruth had witnessed. I did not connect with the child actress Asha Menina and felt the child was a bit off before they even arrived back in the States. The viewer was aware of her inner thoughts through her whisperings in her mind and she spoke to three weird looking dolls that were spooky. The times that House of Cards ventured into these eerie scenes reminded me of a young Sissie Spacek in Carrie, and I did not want the movie to turn in that direction.
There was such limited information concerning the father and his death and no family discussions about memories. This is where development lacked and could have been explored further. I could not even form an opinion on the father since flashbacks only showed a flashlight and legs falling down.
Ruth had a fear of heights, but it was not explained what led to this. She also did not want Sally and Michael to cry over the death of their father. I think the reason why I was not drawn to the character of Sally is the way she was presented. It was mentioned that she knew three languages, and you heard her muttering to herself in these, but they did not portray her favorably before she withdrew into herself once they were back home.
The next adult we meet is a neighbor played by Park Overall, the only perfectly suited actor in a role in House of Cards. I would have rather seen the mother portrayed by one of the actresses who starred in Designing Women, because Kathleen Turner's accent just bugs me too much.
Their house was very large with a lot of land and we only ever saw the kitchen and Sally's bedroom along with the porch. It made no sense for Sally to be sleeping in the attic with access to a window, especially after several incidents where she got out and climbed on the roof.
At first the only person who knows about Sally's strange screams and her ability to climb on the roof is her brother Michael. He accidentally moved one of the weirdo dolls and she opened her mouth to emit such odd sounds and did not stop until he positioned the doll back. One of his electronic toys landed on the roof and was returned by Sally.
One frightening scene was when Michael was playing baseball with a friend and the ball went right toward Sally, yet she caught it with her barehand. Before she threw the ball back to Michael she kind of spaced out with the ball. Her throw was very powerful too.
The first few scenes upon their arrival back home showed Sally in this crouching position, she resembled a china doll when was picked up and returned to the same form. I thought it was very weird until they showed her mother in the same position a few times. Nothing really made sense in House of Cards and many loose ends were left hanging for this viewer.
Sally went back to her Architect work and was called to the school because Sally was not talking and they wanted her to get a diagnosis and see some specialists for testing. Ruth did not agree and said that Sally needed time. A Psychologist is dispatched to their home at the same time that Sally happens to be retrieving the baseball for Michael. When Ruth happens to see what is going on when calling Michael for dinner she races onto the roof and mishaps occur as Jake T. Beerlander hops over the gate Ruth locked and assists with this ordeal.
The whole scene was comical seeing Tommy Lee Jones in this character that was not suited for his abilities. I laughed when I saw him in sneakers, although he did do a good job working with students at the school. The testing is done through two-way mirrors and no one can reach Sally. Another employee at the school was the mother from the old television series Good Times. I was not really sure what her role was at the school and she just seemed to stand around and watch kids.
The school that Sally is assigned to through the County Social Services and court has children with Schizophrenia, Autism and Epilepsy. Autism is mentioned since they feel she is portraying traits, but hard to relate to since the age of onset is from two to three and not six. The few times Sally moved her hands was to make like flying and not the usual hand flapping that my son does.
Sally has retreated into her own world and should not be left alone or with a brother who is listening to music, yet this happens time and again with disaster looming. Ruth leaves the kids in the truck while going to a construction site and this leads to the court proceedings.
Around this time while Ruth is with her neighbor drinking on the porch Sally is able to move about the house freely gathering up photos and cards to make a House of Cards. She is up all night working on this endeavor. When Michael calls out to his Mother yet again because Sally is missing she starts taking photographs of this creation staring down at Sally. When the cards collapsed I ws expecting Sally to start her screaming episode, but that was not the case.
Ruth had these goggles that you wear to hook up to the computer to become part of a virtual reality image and did some sort of work with scanning the images from the photos onto the screen. The end result was a big production in the woods near the house, where she spent long nights working.
This was all a secret to the Doctor so that Ruth appeared to be in denial that her daughter was on some spectrum and needed more testing and therapy. Instead Ruth was working on getting inside her daughter's head in an unusual way.
I felt the scenes where they showed students working at the school with therapists was decent, although they did push in the wrong direction when trying to get an echolaic child to ask for water, when clearly the child wanted to drink. I do not agree with the concept of withholding something from a child when they cannot communicate that need.
I did choose to view House of Cards because of the mention of autistic traits, and glad that the cover of the video did not mention autism since that was not the basis of the character or show. The parent/child bond lacked structure, was hard to follow that a child missed a parent so much when there were no flashbacks hinting to a relationship.
The opening segment shows Sally with a few men talking about her father and where he is. The mother was not even around at this point and seemed off to me. The man told Sally that he was at the moon and this starts the whole fascination with the moon and how Sally can get there so her father is not lonely.
The ending scenes are far from being realistic and hard to know who was reading into dreams or what was really happening between Ruth and Sally. The viewer did get a glimpse into why Sally retreated into her own world and autism was far from the reason. Why Sally screamed when things were out of place and had strength with the baseball was left unresolved. The emphasis on the family structure and bonds were not explored enough to fully grasp the way Sally felt after losing her father. I think that Sally was trying to get to her father on the moon because her mother was afraid of heights and then it looked like in a dream sequence that Sally also witnessed the accident that killed her father. Again, another scene that did not make a clear distinction between fact and reality.
In my opinion the House of Cards fell down quickly. The reasons include poor character development and casting choices. It is interesting to see how movies tackle the topic of autism.
Previously published on Epinions
Adopt A Family for the Holidays
Autism Take Two! Quiz