House Arrest movie review: This Netflix original isn't a film; it's a series of bad decisions

Swetha Ramakrishnan

Nov 15, 2019 13:07:07 IST


It looks like there was a good idea behind Netflix original film House Arrest — starring Ali Fazal, Shriya Pilgaonkar, Jim Sarb, and written by Samit Basu. On paper, it's a situational comedy with a unique concept.

Karan (Ali Fazal) hasn't stepped out of his house in six months; a journalist (Saira) wants to cover him for a story she is doing on hikikomori — a societal phenomena, originated in Japan, which forces young adults, mostly male with acute socially reclusive behaviour and withdrawal, to be confined to their homes or rooms for months or years at a stretch. Meanwhile, Karan's neighbour Pinky (Barkha Singh) wants him to babysit a suitcase for her, the contents of which seem dubious. When all these worlds meet, the film is supposed to take off. Except it never really does.

Twenty minutes into House Arrest and I realised good ideas don't make a good film.

 House Arrest movie review: This Netflix original isnt a film; its a series of bad decisions

Ali Fazal in House Arrest. Image from YouTube

The second realisation I had was this seems to be particularly a Netflix problem. It's now a well-known joke that Netflix is the dumping ground for bad content. It's not a new thing, and over time we've come to understand that even bad films and shows on the streaming website turn out to be a good deal for them. Any publicity is good publicity, right? And when you're not paying Rs 500 + on a movie ticket, your standards for what you watch automatically becomes low (let's face it, we've all chosen to watch "bad" films or guilty pleasure shows on days when we just don't want to use our minds too much).

But with House Arrest, Netflix has hit a new low. House Arrest is simply a whole lot of nothing. And then some more nothing. It's so blah you can't even watch it for fun.

This may seem harsh, but I am compelled to remind readers that we've been particularly kind to Netflix India's original series in the past — no obligations, I genuinely found some merit in these shows despite their flaws. (Check out our reviews of Leila, Bard of Blood and Sacred Games season 2). So when something really bad hits you in the face, you cannot ignore it. Multiple vetting channels and pressure to commercialise has ruined even the small chance that House Arrest may have been watchable.

It's hard to zero in on what's worst about House Arrest. The film has an inconsistent tone, moving between wanting to be a comedy, with notes of a (poor) thriller and a rom-com (?). Maybe it was supposed to be a Bollywood film with a theatrical release because there's a needless romantic track forced on us between Ali Fazal and Shriya Pilgaonkar (with dream sequences and all). Somewhere in the middle, the makers may have thought that they want to go in the Delhi Belly direction but abandon it halfway through in favour of — yes, you guessed it — romance. Jim Sarbh is reduced to scenes in which his overacting, as some sort of Delhi playboy (so thoroughly miscast), sticks out like a sore thumb.

The second half of House Arrest is a particularly horrible compilation of scenes that are forced together to reach an insipid climax. House Arrest is only 1 hour and 44 minutes long but I struggled to sit through it and had to finish watching it over three days in bits and pieces (only because I had to write this review.)

I can't believe I am saying this, but if you truly want to watch something with low intellectual investment, the so-bad-it-is-good variety, skip House Arrest and watch Drive instead.

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Updated Date: Nov 15, 2019 13:07:07 IST