THE HOUSE OF YES is based on a stage play, and although I've never seen a production or read the script...the movie sure felt an awful lot like a play that did not have its script "opened up for the screen." It felt very theatrical...almost to the point where it felt like a deliberate choice to have this movie feel like a play. If that's the case, it was NOT a good choice.
THE HOUSE OF YES deals with a very messed up, upper class family who happen to live within shouting distance of the Kennedy compound. Set a few years after John Kennedy's assassination, we meet the Pascal family, including mother (Genevieve Bujold) and her three kids: young Anthony (Freddie Prinze Jr.), "Jackie-O" (Parker Posey) and her brother Marty (Josh Hamilton). Set during part of Thanksgiving weekend, Marty is bringing his fiancé Lesly (Tori Spelling) to meet his family. Anthony is a social shut-in of some sort...he's a young man who ought to be in college or something, but he appears to be terribly naïve and flighty. Jackie-O (her real name is not given, from what I could hear) is nuts. She dresses like Jackie-O and virtually imagines herself to BE Jackie, and she further imagines that her brother Marty is John. She CLEARLY has an unhealthy attachment not only to her fantasies but to her brother. Could there be incest in their past? Marty seems to be fairly normal, but he slips into old, poorly adjusted patterns pretty quickly. Poor Lesly is just a mid-western girl, slightly simple...and is quickly overwhelmed by the weirdness around her. And Mother (also not named) is no help at all...she acts like the matriarch of a fine, tradition-steeped family, having rationalized the fact that all her kids are basket cases.
The film is sometimes called a comedy...but truthfully, it is more odd & quirky than funny. At first, the odd behavior of this family seems almost quaint and amusing...but as it becomes clearer that they are ALL messed up (including "normal" Marty); it grows harder to keep much interest in these folks. They are given to histrionics and huge theatricality of speech and gesture...and this is REALLY annoying to watch.
The script includes bad behavior, seductions that are quite sordid, lots of yelling & drinking and enormous amounts of dialogue that indicates how nuts these people are. It's almost as if they are all aware they are crazy and are trying to outdo each other.
This might be tolerable if the cast were better. But just as the script hasn't been allowed to open this story up (we never really even see the outside of the house)...the actors have apparently been encouraged to perform as though they were onstage. All are allowed to exaggerate greatly, and most do not have the skill to pull this off. If you've ever wanted to know what an evening at the theatre starring Tori Spelling and Freddie Prinze Jr. might be like...wonder no more. It's an evening that includes not one single believable emotional moment. Spelling acts like a dumb blonde...in the worst possible way. Prinze just looks like a lost puppy. Hamilton starts out okay, but as his character falls under the old thrall of his family, he allows himself to wallow in "Acting" with a capital "A." Bujold, in many ways, comes off the best...but her character really goes through no growth or change, so in the end, her role is mostly relegated to the sidelines. And the usually wonderful Parker Posey is allowed to go right over the top. She's got energy to burn, and her role gives her very little in the way of realistic shadings. She bounces all over the place (per the script), and none of it seems rooted in an underlying reality. I can't decide if it is her fault or the fault of the director & script. Regardless, she flails about with great verve...but it's all sound and fury signifying nothing.
By the time HOUSE OF YES reaches its final scenes, we're just tired and bored and ready for it to be over. I was left feeling that I had spent nearly two hours with a bunch of horrible people, doing stupid, petty little things and that it all culminated in total meaninglessness. There was no deeper point to be made, and even the journey there was not worth taking. This is truly a HOUSE OF NO.
Pros: Humor, Ms. Posey, Ms. Bujold, Mr. Prinze Cons: Ms. Spelling, Mr. Hamilton The Bottom Line: I recommend it with only one warning--if you don't like dark comedy avoid. I withhold the last star due to two performances. Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie''s plot. The only thing I can figure about the title The House of Yes is that the children (now adults) … more
Parker Posey was the It Girl of independent film in early 1997, the year this film (along with three or four others in which she starred) all played at the Sundance Film Festival. This film was the toughest of the bunch to embrace, based as it was on a self-consciously quirky off-Broadway play about Thanksgiving at the home of a particularly strange family. Oldest son Josh Hamilton comes home from college for the holidays, with fiancée Tori Spelling in tow. What he hasn't told her is that his twin sister, Jackie-O (played by Posey), thinks she's Jackie Kennedy--or that he and Jackie-O have shared more than, shall we say, filial affection. Posey is wonderfully edgy and she and Hamilton spar with entertaining vigor, but you still have to cope with writer-director Mark Waters's pretentious script.--Marshall Fine