The House of Yes

Austin Chronicle

DIRECTED BY: Mark Waters

REVIEWED: 10-27-97

Parker Posey, Josh Hamilton, Tori Spelling, Freddie Prinze, Jr., Genevieve Bujold, Rachael Leigh Cook, David Love. (R, 93 min.)

Just say no. Staged and stagy, this adaptation of Wendy MacLeod's play about family dysfunction and the "anti-Camelot" is a muddled, middling mess, despite a witty, top-drawer performance from Posey and a surprisingly comic turn from Spelling. It's 1983, and Marty Pascal (Hamilton) is returning home to his family's D.C. estate with his fiancée Lesly (Spelling) in tow. Some time earlier, Marty managed to sever the ties that bind and broke free from a smothering home life that included madness, incest, and murder. The family that rots together, however, stays together, and Mrs. Pascal (Bujold), brother Anthony (Prinze, Jr.), and libidinous sister Jackie-O (Posey) have resisted the urge to grow up and get out; they're still as creepy as ever. The defining moment in the Pascal clan history, apparently, came on November 22, 1963, when both their literal father and their mythic father (JFK) were erased from the map, but not from their consciousness. Since then, Jackie-O (decked out in the flowing strands of pearls and pink pillbox hat of her namesake) has been in and out of institutions, Anthony has lost any and all conception of just what the hell he's doing, and Mrs. Pascal has let it all come crumbling down around her, preferring to allow the tidal eddies of incipient insanity to swirl over her and her brood in the hope that life will continue "as normal." Only Marty has emerged (marginally) unscathed, clinging to his bourgeois fiancée like a drowning man to a life preserver. Bringing Lesly into close contact with his possibly homicidal sister isn't the wisest of prenuptial career moves, granted, but really, who would expect violent acts from a maniacal First Lady impersonator with a gun on an ancestral estate on a storm-tossed evening? C'mon. Despite its having garnered a fair amount of praise and a quick purchase at Sundance this year, Waters' film is a disjointed, eerie mess (and not in a good way, either). Posey shines, as always; her Jackie-O is a quavering, terrified, lovestruck lunatic, unwilling and unable to play by the rules of the real world and armed with a gun. The rest of the cast, too, is excellent, it's just that there's really not all that much for them to do. It's as though the filmmakers had rounded up some of the best lights in independent cinema and then filmed them writing thank-you notes. Despite the film's faux aura of significant underlying themes and deeper meaning, it's all for naught, full of sound and fury and loose sexual mores signifying zip, and as such, it's difficult to feel much of anything for this fractured family tale. 2.0 stars

--Marc Savlov

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