Housesitter

Not too long ago, I posted my assessments of Batman Returns and The Silence Of The Lambs.  The original, handwritten drafts of these reviews were completed in June 1992 and March 1993, respectively.  But they weren’t very good.  A lot of revision was required.  I did manage to type up a second draft of the Batman review but was still unsatisfied with what I had written.  Finally, after all these years, the reviews were completely overhauled and corrected.  The rough drafts were thrown away and the final versions are now exclusively available on this website.  It only took half of my life to finish off these particular pieces of writing.  No biggie.
 
Both reviews were written specifically for this unpublished book of critiques I was working on at the time entitled The Movie Critic: Book One.  Over a 9-month period, I screened and reviewed 152 movies.  Batman Returns was the first selection, The Silence Of The Lambs was the last one.
 
Housesitter, a very funny romantic comedy from the summer of 1992, was the second review.  After completing the first draft in ink I decided to type up the next draft.  For some unknown reason, only half of the review was typed.  (Come to think of it, it was probably the result of chronic laziness, an impossible, bad habit of mine to break.)
 
That brings us to right now.  After much contemplation, I’ve decided to post a reworked version of the original review.  Gone are all the excessive plot descriptions, an annoying technique I used at the time.  The review is much tighter and breezier, as a result.  The essence of the original assessment has been maintained despite added lines and all those omissions.  Enjoy.
 
 
Housesitter
Parental Guidance
102 minutes, 1992
Starring:
Steve Martin — Newton Davis
Goldie Hawn — Gwen Phillips
Dana Delany — Becky Metcalf
Donald Moffat — George Davis
 Julie Harris — Edna Davis
Peter MacNicol — Marty
Roy Cooper — Winston Moseby
Christopher Durang — Reverend Lipton
Produced by Brian Grazer
Screenplay by Mark Stein
Music by Miles Goodman
Directed by Frank Oz
 
Newton Davis is deeply in love with his steady girlfriend, Becky Metcalf.  How deeply?  Well, he convinces her to wear a blindfold.  Then, he drives her to a very special destination in his red convertible.  Once they arrive, the audience immediately gets a strong sense of what Newton is up to.  We discover that he is a terrific architect who has built a beautiful dream house for himself and Becky.  (It even has a giant red ribbon strategically placed on the front.)  He removes her blindfold and proposes marriage.  But to his dismay, she blurts out, “No!”.  Newton is never the same after this moment.
 
That’s the opening set-up for Housesitter, a very funny romantic comedy that isn’t entirely surprising.  Nonetheless, this second collaboration between former-Jim-Henson-puppeteer-turned-movie-director Frank Oz and comedian Steve Martin is a successful one.
 
Three months after Becky (Dana Delany) rejects Newton (Martin), we meet some really funny, supporting characters.  First, there’s Marty (Peter MacNicol).  He’s also an architect who is kind of a romantic advisor for Newton.  He tells Davis (everybody, with the exception of his parents, calls him by his last name) to get over Becky and hunt for some cheap, sweaty sex.  Newton isn’t interested.  He’s too heartbroken to move on.
 
Marty constantly and humourously sucks up to his boss, Winston Moseby (Roy Cooper), the head of their architectural firm.  His most memorable one-liner:  “I want to get my lips permanently sewn to his ass!”
 
Then, we meet Gwen Phillips (Goldie Hawn).  When Newton meets her in a quaint, little cafe one night, he thinks she’s Hungarian.  He sticks around after business hours have concluded to talk to her.  Still depressed about Becky’s rejection he doodles a picture of his beautiful dream house on a serviette before making his move.  Then, he realizes she’s just an American with a pretty good handle on a difficult accent.  Lonely and horny (and possibly remembering Marty’s advice), he makes his play for her.  His pick-up line is very funny:  “So, Gwen, gwere would you like to gwo?”
 
Long story short, they have a one-night stand in Gwen’s apartment on top of the cafe.  By morning, Newton has disappeared but his dream house noodle has been accidentally left behind.  Gwen smells a glorious opportunity, a “long con”, if you will, and decides to check out the empty property for herself.
 
Soon, she settles in quite comfortably.  While doing a grocery run in a local store, she informs the clerk that she’s Mrs. Davis, which is a big shock to Becky who just happens to be right there to hear the news.   Word spreads quickly and when Newton goes to the dream house to put up the “For Sale” sign, he is stunned by what he sees.  However, he senses a glorious opportunity of his own.  He convinces Gwen to keep the con going so he can try to make his ex jealous and win her back.
 
This is a clever comedy with many hilarious twists and turns that I would dare not reveal.  Otherwise, I’d be spoiling your fun.  What makes it so wonderful are the equally hilarious performances by Hawn and Martin (although Martin does overact in spots).
 
The supporting actors are good, too.  Donald Moffat, Julie Harris and Peter MacNicol are all witty and convincing.  Having a pretty good script helps, naturally. 
 
However, Housesitter isn’t entirely original or close to perfection, not by any means.  It is predictable in spots (some scenes are obvious), the Dana Delany character is a standard girlfriend role and it’s not quite clear why the Newton character is so taken with her.  She is unlikeable and uninteresting.  Hot?  Yes.  (Newton really enjoys poking her breasts with his finger, at one point.  I know I would, too.)  But where’s the personality and the warmth?  It doesn’t help that there’s limited chemistry between the two actors, either.  Thankfully, that doesn’t matter.  The real love story, the one we’re really interested in, is effective.
 
Despite its flaws, this is a very funny film.  It’s ideal for couples on their first date.
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Sunday, March 25, 2007
10:29 p.m.
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Published in: on March 25, 2007 at 10:31 pm  Leave a Comment  

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