HOUSE OF YES, THE(director/writer: Mark Waters; screenwriter: from a Wendy MacLeod play; cinematographer: Michael Spiller; editor: Pamela Martin; cast: Parker Posey (Jackie-O), Josh Hamilton (Marty), Tori Spelling (Lesly), Freddie Prinze Jr. (Anthony), Genevieve Bujold (Mrs. Pascal); Runtime: 85; Bandeira Entertainment / Miramax; 1997)
“The film’s major fault is that it is too stagy a production.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
This successful NYC Wendy MacLeod play, a black comedy about a dysfunctional nuclear family, revolves around Parker’s (Jackie-O) obsession with the Kennedy assassination, and is full of ironies (Jackie confuses Kennedy’s death with her father’s flight from home on that same day in 1963).
The film’s major fault is that it is too stagy a production.
Parker is fond of dressing up as Jackie-O (wearing a tacky pink suit and pillbox hat around her Georgetown mansion) and reenacting the Kennedy assassination with her twin brother, Marty, played by Josh Hamilton, acting as the President. She once shot him with real bullets during one of those stagings, when she thought he would be leaving her. Their relationship includes incest, something he feels isn’t normal even if he derives great satisfaction from it. But, she doesn’t agree with him on his judgment about what is or is not normal. She is, of course, a certifiable nut job, committed to a mental institution after the shooting incident.
Parker is still overly possessed with her twin brother, even though he is now living in NYC and wishes to stay clear of her for good. The other brother, Anthony, is played by Prinze, with a panache for bringing out his character’s creepiness. He is weird, slow-witted and obnoxious, but he does not have the same kind of depraved sexual relationship with Parker as Josh does. Bujold is the eccentric mother, who might or might not have killed her husband the day after the Kennedy assassination. He might have just left them like the family claims happened. In any case, he no longer lives with them in their Washington mansion and has not been heard from since.
During a 1983 Thanksgiving Day hurricane, Josh pays a surprise visit to the family so that he can introduce his fiancée (Tori) to them. She is cute but not too swift, and is as straight as an arrow. Josh likes the fact that she is so ordinary and is happy that she works in a donut shop, and is almost ecstatic that she is witless. She is naturally nervous about meeting the family, and knows nothing about their infamous history. The only one in the family who takes a liking to her is Prinze, who wishes to take her away from his brother. Mother hates her with a passion and Jackie-O can’t wait to get rid of her. I found Tori’s performance to be spineless, especially when compared to the fine ensemble cast she is surrounded by.
How much you like this film depends on your idea of comedy and how much tolerance you have for “sick humor.” If this kind of parody over the tragedy that rocked the country upsets you and you think it is in bad taste, then you shouldn’t see this film. If your reaction is like mine, then you will find that when this picture is on the mark, which is quite often, it is laugh out loud funny. The real flaw in the film is when it starts to take itself seriously and thinks it needs an academic explanation for the Parker character’s obsession. It seemed unnecessary to have changed the mood of the film and all of sudden offer some psychological explanations for Jacki-O’ behavior.
The staple in the film was Parker Posey, the princess of the indie film. She, simply, steals the show.
REVIEWED ON 9/8/98 GRADE: B-
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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