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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A Chat with Michael Rooker

To my knowledge, the adjective “Rooker-esque” has yet to take off in any significant fashion, but when Michael Rooker calls you and says that he’s in the midst of driving across the country to get to his next job…I don’t know, it just sounds like exactly the sort of thing you’d expect him to be doing. Although he’s played many a crazy mofo in his career as an actor, Rooker still manages to possess the sort of everyman quality that makes it very easy to accept that he’d take a pass on a plane ride in favor of spending a couple of days taking in the scenery on a cross-country drive. Premium Hollywood had the chance to chat with Rooker in conjunction with the release of his latest film, “Atlantis Down,” directed by Max Bartoli, but we also got a bit of insight into his character on AMC’s “The Walking Dead,” learned about his experiences working on “Mallrats,” “Sea of Love,” and “Slither,” and heard him sing the praises of “JFK.”

Bullz-Eye: So how’s the drive going?

Michael Rooker: Actually, quite good. I’m in a little thunderstorm right now, but I’m just fine. I’m about to get back on the road and have a little chat with you.

BE: Where are you right now?

MR: I’m in Texas, near Odessa. I’m on the 20. I was on the 10, but then 10 and 20 split, and I’m heading basically up toward Dallas. Through Odessa and Midland, and then I’ll get into Fort Worth and Dallas.

BE: I told my wife there was something very Rooker-esque about that fact that you were on the road, driving to your next assignment.

MR: (Bursts out laughing) I do this all the time, and it’s kind of crazy, but I just do. My better half is sort of always wondering, “Why don’t you just fly?” But, you know, it’s nice and relaxing. It helps me get ready and prepare for the job, and then afterwards it helps me defrag on the way home.

BE: Sounds like the perfect combo.

MR: So far, so good. It’s worked thus far…and I’ve got about 280 thousand miles on my vehicle to prove it! (Laughs) I think by the end of this trip I’ll have another 10 thousand on it, so it ought to hit 290 thousand.

BE: I’ve got over 150 thousand on my Hyundai Elantra, but I’m pretty sure I haven’t seen half the things you have.

MR: (Laughs) Still, you guys must do some traveling, huh?

BE: Well, we did a lot more of it before our daughter got here.

MR: For sure, man!

BE: So how did you first get hooked up with “Atlantis Down”? Because I know it’s certainly a labor of love for these guys.

MR: Dude, this was, like, a last-minute phone call…for me, anyway. It was really quick. I was working on a movie, I think it was down in the Wilmington area, and I got the phone call. Then I got the script, and it was kind of cool. But it was really fast. But I just said, “Yeah, you know what, I’m here, I’m on the east coast, and I think I can do it.” I snagged a couple of friends, who read lines with me, and I drove up, did my role all in one day, and came back.

BE: Wow.

MR: (Laughs) It was really quick…and painless, really. It was just a very quick little job that was kind of crazy. I’ve never accomplished my entire role in one day before. It was nuts! I don’t want to do that too often, but it was a crazy experience, and I’m still friends with everyone involved, like Max. Like you said, the whole thing was a labor of love, and I was honored to be a part of it.

BE: Can you speak a little bit about your character in the film without giving too much away?

MR: Well, you know, my guy is… (Hesitates) I’m an alien. I’m an alien being that is having a joyous time playing around with these human creatures, basically. (Laughs) I don’t want to say too much more, so that’s kind of about it, really. I just give ‘em hell. I goof around with their brains and mess around with their thought patterns, what they think they see and what they don’t see. So it’s kind of freaky and weird for them. And, of course, for my character, I obviously didn’t have a lot of time to prepare, so I just went and did it. I learned all the lines real quickly, and then I got there, and Max said, “Ah, forget about the lines. Just say what you would normally say.” And I’m, like, “What?” (Laughs) “Uh, okay, Max, okay…” So, basically, the entire role is improv. We improvised the whole piece. Having the lines as my base, I riffed on them and changed them, thought of new ways to say stuff, used new patterns of putting things together, and…we did it all in one night. It was crazy, dude. Crazy! I still don’t know how the hell we got it…

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Weinstein’s Cash Problems to Trouble “Basterds”? …And the Genesis of a “Hangover”

Someday, I’m going to have to write post apologizing to Nikki Finke for all the mean things I’ve thought about her in the wake of some of the mean things she’s written in her still extant column for the quickly crumbling L.A. Weekly. But the fact remains that her blog is absolutely invaluable and mostly avoids the sort of editorializing that used to drive me crazy — even if her commenters still drive me up the wall. Also, today, she helped me learn about two breaking stories which will be very much of interest to PH readers.

* As is being reported by The New York Times among many others, the Weinstein Company appears to be facing some serious financial issues. Of most immediate interest to film fans, particularly those of us who may confess to a certain amount of fanboyism, is how the reported restructuring may affect the release of Quentin Tarantino’s extremely long-awaited “Inglourious Basterds” (I think he spent a year developing the misspellings alone.) The amazing Ms. Finke reports, however, that things may be even worse than the NYT implied, and the company may have issues releasing any film.

Meanwhile, Sharon Waxman is claiming that the ubiquitous Harvey is pressuring Tarantino to cut 40 minutes or so from the currently 160 minute war flick, which got all-over-the-map reviews and comments at Cannes. While reporting a quote from brother Bob Weinstein placing the apparent financial crisis in perspective (i.e., the financial deaths of the Weinsteins have been reported more than once before), she also mentions another lavish production that could be effected: Rob Marshall’s intriguing looking “Nine.”

* And, in a Finke exclusive, she has some possible backstory on how “The Hangover” was induced. Was it really as borderline underhanded and complicated as she makes it sound? Only her “insiders” know for sure. I will say it’s yet another sign of the truth of JFK’s pronouncement that “Victory has a thousand fathers….” (The “but defeat is an orphan” portion of the quote would no doubt relate better to why we’re not reading stories about whose brilliant idea “Land of the Lost” was.)

  

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