director/writer/editor: John O’Brien; cinematographer: David Parry; music: Nosey Parkers; cast: Natalie Picoe (Natalie Newman), George Lyford (George Lyford), Richard Snee (Richard Newman), Vida Martin (Vida), Fred Tuttle (Fred); Runtime: 104; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Molly O’Brien/Stacey Steinmetz; Bellwether Films; 2003)
“This charming low-key comedy never seems anything but authentic.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
John O’Brien directs and writes “Nosey Parker,” an enjoyable social commentary film that wavers between fact and fiction and moves at its own leisure pleasure to tell its delightful little people story. O’Brien said that though the film was scripted, a great deal of it is improvisational. The film is set in O’Brien’s hometown of Tunbridge, Vermont. Most of the characters are inhabitants of Tunbridge, with the wonderfully charismatic George Lyford taking on the starring role as himself. The only two professional actors are Natalie Picoe as Natalie Newman and Richard Snee as her husband Richard Newman. This charming low-key comedy never seems anything but authentic, as the keen social observations, beautiful scenery, and engaging real-life characters are always genuinely presented.
The film’s theme revolves around a case of cultural shock, as a childless professional couple, Natalie and Richard Newman, residing in the suburbs of Connecticut moves to rural Tunbridge, Vermont. They have tired of the fast lifestyles of the city and suburbs and seek happiness in their dream house in a quiet setting with spectacular panoramic views. We first meet the couple as three listers (tax appraisers) call on the Newmans to inspect the million dollar restored three-story old house for its new worth. They are amazed to find an exercise room with a wall-length mirror, gold-plated fixtures, a dumb-waiter, and other luxuries not usually found in the less affluent native homes. One of the listers is Tunbridge native George, a gregarious man in his seventies with a penchant for telling comical stories (my favorite is the one about how fish wouldn’t get in trouble if they kept their mouth shut). The retired farmer is hired by Natalie as a handyman, and the two easily communicate with each other though vastly different. George learns that the affable ‘just plain old housewife’ Natalie is 33 while the more stuffy Richard is twenty years her senior. Richard is a psychiatrist with a private practice and an office located in the house, where he charges $200 a session. Natalie is happy with her dream house, but confides that she’s bored and lonely and would like to raise a family–something her divorced husband is not keen on doing again. While the lives of George and his fellow native Vermonters is contrasted with the life of the new residents, George in his common sense logic and sharp Yankee wit acts to facilitate the anxiety problems of the couple. When Natalie leans on George for support and he begins becoming more than a handyman, Richard becomes unduly jealous. But when Richard returns to relying on his professional gift of listening, he’s able to understand how to make things work better in his new residence after a role playing session with George. While George is befriending Natalie and becoming her only friend in town, the locals are suspicious of Richard to the point he becomes the focus of local gossips who imagine the worst about the newly arrived rich folks from the city.
Though nothing big happens and there’s no dramatic fireworks, on its own terms this is a unique and wonderful film. Fred Tuttle who starred in John O’Brien’s other Vermont-based film, the 1996 “Man with a Plan,” has a small comical role as one of the ‘nosey parker’ neighbors.
REVIEWED ON 7/7/2004 GRADE: B