Monday, April 6, 2015

The House of Yes

I cannot for the life of me remember where I first heard about this movie, or even when it first entered my DVD collection. It came out in 1997, and while it's from Miramax, which isn't exactly a small studio, it definitely has the independent film vibe, in part because it stars Parker Posey, who's all about the indy films.

In this movie, Parker plays Jackie-O, a young woman with mental problems living at home with her mother (Geneviève Bujold) and her younger brother, Anthony (Freddie Prinze, Jr.). Her twin brother, Marty (Josh Hamilton) is coming home from New York City, but unbeknownst to Jackie-O, he's bringing a fiance, Lesly (Tori Spelling). Over the course of one hurricane-filled night, Lesly learns that Jackie-O is not the only person in the family with serious mental issues, and that Jackie-O and Marty have a very unusual relationship for siblings, based in part on their fascination with the JFK assassination. That's not to say they're studying it or trying to figure out if there was a conspiracy; no, they like to re-create the scene, which for some inexplicable reason turns them on.

I had mixed feelings watching this movie again, because I'm more aware now than I used to be that there are real people out there in the world for whom the assassination is still a very personal tragedy. I feel that way about those Darwin Award books too -- assuming the anecdotes are true, somebody actually died, and how must their survivors feel to see their deaths being turned into cocktail party entertainment? So on the one hand, it seems in poor taste to use the JFK assassination for comedy. On the other hand, this is very much a dark comedy, and part of the fascination is that it's hard to believe that these characters could be so screwed up, yet they make you believe it. And it's kind of the point that it's in bad taste to use the assassination for ... well, things other than comedy. This is one sick family.

The entire film is very well acted; even Tori Spelling, whose work I would not normally seek out, was well cast in the role of the sweet, naive, and not very bright Lesly. Geneviève Bujold is positively scary as the mother, Freddie Prinze Jr. somehow manages to be even more creepy than his incestuous older siblings, and of course we all know that Parker Posey can play crazy. I should also note that Rachael Leigh Cook does a nice job playing a younger version of Jackie-O in some flashback sequences. Josh Hamilton as Marty is the least distinct in a way, but that's also appropriate as he's the one family member who is actually trying to escape to Normal-town. Choosing a sweet but unremarkable fiance is part of that plan. Yet it seems he cannot resist Jackie-O once he's back under the same roof with her.

The film is on the short end at only 85 minutes, and it has a tiny cast. IMDB notes that the play was written by Wendy MacLeod and was adapted for the screen by Mark Waters. For such a "little" picture, it sure is memorable. I'll admit that I don't understand the relevance of the movie's title, but perhaps it refers to the fact that Jackie-O is a master manipulator and people, even her scary mother, only seem able to say "yes" to her. In any case, I would definitely recommend this movie to anyone who likes dark comedy.

No comments: