Hidden Netflix Gems – The House of Yes

Hidden Netflix Gems is a new feature designed to help readers answer that burning question, “What should I watch tonight?” It will be updated every Saturday before the sun goes down.

The term “dark comedy” often seems overused, as relatively few films really strike the balance between truly dark and truly funny, tending instead to fall more on one side or the other. One film that really deserves the title, however, is Mark Waters‘ 1997 adaptation of Wendy MacLeod‘s play, The House of Yes. Blending sharp, clever dialogue and a wonderfully unhinged lead performance by Parker Posey with exceptionally disturbing subject matter and boldly unlikable characters, The House of Yes has to be one of the darkest comedies ever made. At the same time, though, it is strikingly funny.

Posey is “Jackie-O” Pascal, a disturbed young woman with a lifelong obsession over Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and, especially, the JFK assassination. As a child, she once dressed as her namesake for Halloween, complete with fake blood and “brains” made from macaroni. She also has an unhealthy fixation on her twin brother, Marty (Josh Hamilton), with whom she shares a far too close relationship, even for twins. Their mother (Genevieve Bujold), upon meeting Marty’s fiancée, Lesly (Tori Spelling), tells her, “Jackie and Marty belong to each other. Jackie’s hand was holding Marty’s penis when they came out of the womb.” This casual admission of such an unsettling fact to a relative stranger gives the viewer a pretty strong idea of how this unbalanced family came to be the way they are.

Jackie and Marty’s younger brother, Anthony (Freddie Prinze, Jr.), has his share of problems as well, chief among them being his strong desire for the sort of bond shared by the twins. Feeling left out, he makes clumsy advances toward Lesly, heightening her understandable discomfort as she is basically stranded with her bizarre new family during a hurricane. The film’s single location and relatively few characters, as well as its reliance on dialogue and performance above all, make its origins as a stage play obvious, but that doesn’t really hurt its impact. The oddly claustrophobic nature of the single location only adds to the tension of the situation as poor Lesly, who is clearly Marty’s futile attempt to escape from his insane family, struggles to cope with the extreme dysfunction all around her. Of course, Marty can never really escape from the madness of his family, since he himself is such an integral part of it, and the conclusion of The House of Yes is in keeping with the rest of it: relentlessly dark, and at the same time, disturbingly funny.

  

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24 8.23-24: The last day of our acquaintance

There but for the grace of God goes Fox, who dares to air the series finale to one of their most successful shows in the shadow of “Lost,” which was basically the biggest series finale since “Cheers.” Man, do you remember the cast of “Cheers” on Leno’s show after that last episode aired? They were smashed. Good times.

The “24” finale, however, was not good times.

The bad guys won. Allison had the video of Starbuck with the Russian. Mr. Blonde wiped his servers, so the backup copy of the video was gone. The recording of the conversation between I.M. Weasel and Suvarov, which Jack gave to Chloe, was confiscated by Dominic. Chloe and Buffy are looking at long stints in the slammer for treason. Jack is looking at either the death penalty or life in a deep dark hole somewhere halfway around the world, if he’s lucky. Game over. Bad guys win.

Well, that’s how this would have happened in the real world.

But not here. Instead, Jack, Chloe and Buffy are saved by a long-overdue crisis of conscience on the part of one Allison Taylor. One that, ideally, shouldn’t have needed to happen in the first place – this is where frequent commenter Mr. Paulsen would make a crack about manufactured conflict, and he’s not wrong – but there you are. That’s a hell of a way to end your show about an ass-kicking counter-terrorist agent, with him being saved not by his wits but by someone else’s guilty conscience. And by a hell of a way, I mean lame.

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“So what did that Medsker fucker say about me this week? Man, I hate that guy.”


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24 8.22: On with the body count

There’s no other way to say it: the carnage from tonight’s episode of “24” had me positively giddy. Jack Bauer may have dispensed some Dirty Harry-style justice in the past, but this time around, he’s a Terminator. He doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, and he absolutely will not stop until you are dead. Jesus, I can still feel the small jabs that he hit that hit man with last week, but that shot of Novakovich’s suite littered with dead guys, with Novakovich himself taking a poker to the stomach…that was a thing of beauty. I have been waiting for years to see Jack do something like that. Way to give the people what they want, Fox. I love it when shows finally start acting like they have nothing to lose. Unfortunately, they usually only do this after they’ve lost everything.

Having said that, I’m still unhappy that Jack hasn’t thought to upload the incriminating video to the interwebs. On the plus side, Mr. Blonde still has a copy of it on his hard drive, and since the video is of Starbuck, and Buffy is the one that’s about to pay him a visit, it’s possible that Buffy will get one look at this video and want to blow the whistle whether Jack wishes it or not. Either way, it will be a huge missed opportunity if the world doesn’t see that clip.

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“Hello? Hey, Mr. Rafferty, how are you? Are the royalty checks still coming in?”


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24 8.21: The knife feels like justice

Tonight’s episode of “24” felt like a blast from the past. It was pretty lean in terms of storytelling, it contained a hellacious, if predictable, end-around, and ended with one of the most vicious torture scenes in the show’s history. Pity it had one major, major flaw.

I liked that Dominic was so busy trying to nail down Bauer down that he took no notice of Chloe and Merv the Perv conspiring behind his back. Even when he noticed Chloe giving him The Look (you know the one), he just tinted the windows and kept on scheming. Fool. Nobody puts Chloe in a corner. Still, you’d think Dominic would show a little more diplomacy when safeguarding high crimes committed by the White House. By yanking that file away from Arlo, he may as well have stamped “CORRUPT” on his forehead.

As Jack is setting up the meet with White She Devil, I’m thinking to myself, “There has to be a better way to do this.” Not in terms of getting her the evidence (more on that in a bit), but in terms of meeting out in the open like that. So as it’s going down and he shows up, I knew he’d have a plan, and sure enough, he did. He didn’t care about getting caught on camera – he knew the hit man who took out Crazy Jackie would be there, and could then settle two scores for the price of one. Get the intel, and make the motherfucker responsible for Jackie’s death squeal like a stuck pig before ultimately killing him. Re-enter Mr. Blonde, to get the drop on Dmitri Sharpshooter.

But I have another idea.

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“Let’s see, stab him, then the lighter fluid, then the blowtorch, then the pliers. No, pliers first, the crowd loves it when I open with that.”


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24 8.20: Put me down

Bledsoe: “You won’t take the shot, it’s too risky! I’ll kill her before you…”
Jack: *Blam*

Seriously, that was one of the best deaths in “24” history. Here was Toepick, trying to act all intimidating, when Jack was a mere five or six feet away. He may as well have had the gun on Toepick’s forehead. Heck, I’m pretty sure Jack has made that shot across a windy rooftop with a pea shooter in a previous season.

As Jack continues to thwart I.M. Weasel’s nefarious plans, Logan’s conversations with Allison remind me of a “Simpsons” episode – in full disclosure, it should be noted that pretty much everything reminds me of a “Simpsons” episode – where Apu is trying to get out of his arranged marriage to a family friend, and Homer suggests that he pretend that he’s married to Marge, and Bart and Lisa are his kids. When the plan continues to go wrong, Apu finally grows tired of Homer’s wacky schemes:

Apu: Is it me, or do all of your plans involve some horrible web of lies?
Homer: It’s you.

Logan is Homer. Allison is Apu. Only she’s still going along with Logan’s ridiculous suggestions, even though each one is riskier and more conspicuous than the last one. Again, the woman who sent her own daughter to prison is authorizing Logan to put his assistant (official “24” nickname: Dominic, from his “Dollhouse” days) in charge of the hunt for Jack at CTU. Because that doesn’t look at all suspicious that you’re putting someone in between Jack and Chloe. Yumpin’ yiminy.

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“Well, I say he does have to shoot me now! So shoot me now!”


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