I recently discovered this Australian film while looking through IMDB and was intrigued by the premise of a grown man kept housebound by his mother for the entire 35 years of his life. Considered quite disturbing and controversial at the time (1993) for its portrayal of animal abuse, incest, and blasphemy, it pushes the bounds of good taste and decency even now 17 years later, with an steady and unrelenting stream of bizarre encounters, visual obscenities, and vulgar utterances. It is a long movie, clocking in at almost 2 hours, and can be slow at times. After watching it, I'm not quite sure what to make of my experience except to say I feel disoriented and exhausted. Billed as a black comedy/drama and shot by 31 different cinematographers, director Rolf de Heer describes it as one big experiment. All I can say is, to misquote a line from the film, Christ, this is a weird movie.
I can best describe "Bad Boy Bubby" as what would happen if Forrest Gump were directed by Marilyn Manson (or the other Manson). As described above, Bubby (think Billy Bob Thornton of Sling Blade mated with Hugo Weaving) is a developmentally challenged male who has been kept inside a small rundown tenement by his mother his entire life. Verbally and physically abused, she puts the fear of corporal punishment and God in him so he stays quite and docile. At night, she has sexual relations with him. Told that the outside world is filled with poison gas, she dons a gas mask before leaving and tells him to be still until she returns lest she beats him brainless. We see him mimic the actions and verbal abuse of his mother on a stray cat he finds. He later clingwraps and unknowingly suffocates the animal because his mom told him cats don't breathe as an excuse for why the cat came from outside and didn't die from the supposed poisonous air. Unexpectedly, his father returns after 35 years and proceeds to have sexual relations with Bubby's mom. Already having developed a fascination with large breasts, it is reinforced by the Pop's lecherous behavior and fondness for his wife's "great big whoppers".
After Pop walks in on Bubby fondling his mom's breasts, Pop goes into a rage and kicks Bubby out. From here, he is forced into the real world and embarks on one twisted encounter after another. Some of it is painful to watch because they do tend to be slow and aimless, like Bubby's life. If this is a comedy, I didn't laugh at his misfortunes at interacting with the world, not out of any sense of 21st Century political sensitivity, but mainly because they weren't funny. I did laugh at one scene of Bubby when he gets put in jail and sodomized by "the Animal". This is maybe the only movie you'll see sodomy set to the music of bagpipes. Bobby takes it in stride, so to speak, as he accepts the abuse that is such a routine in his life. An expression of serenity crosses his face. The rest of the story has Bubby having more weird experiences, but eventually, he finds his place in the world. He discovers his humanity, and even discovers love. I found the story arc a bit unbelievable, especially towards the end, but I won't spoil the surprise.
All in all, I can't say that this was a thoroughly pleasurable experience. It really felt like an exercise in avant-garde filmmaking or an assignment from a film class. There are several scenes of nudity, copious amounts of cussing, and unapologetic blasphemy. I can't say that I gained any insight into cinema, the human condition, or other intellectual merits of this film, and for that I'm giving it a 3/5. Definitely rent it first.