Review: ‘The House of Yes’

Wendy MacLeod's legit black comedy is expertly translated to the screen by adapter-director Mark Waters in "The House of Yes." Sophisticated urban auds should say yes to this wittily perverse, Gothic family conceit, and a smashing role for Parker Posey nudges her a few steps closer to stardom. Miramax snapped up rights to the pic within hours of its debut screening for just under $2 million. It's a classic dark and stormy night as Marty Pascal (Josh Hamilton) grimly drives his chirpsome donut-shop waitress fiancee, Lesly (Tori Spelling), from NYC to his family's upstate mansion. He's dreading this reunion --- indeed, script's weakest link is the idea that he agreed to the trip at all --- and cross-cut preparations among the family members suggest good reason. Mrs. Pascal (Genevieve Bujold) is an elegant yet humorlessly frank matriarch whose personality-defining view on motherhood's responsibilities is, "People 'raise' cattle --- children just happen." Dad has long since fled. Younger brother Anthony (Freddie Prinze Jr.) is a fairly dim bulb and recent dropout. But the main event here is Marty's recently de-institutionalized twin (Posey), who goes by the name Jackie-O and has a Camelot/assassination fixation to go with it.

Jackie-O screams, then laughs hysterically, when introduced to Lesly — this was not the reunion she had in mind. But even a fiancee won’t stand in the way of her reigniting a long-running (and not-so-long-retired) incestuous involvement with Marty. To that end, she plants romantic thoughts about the interloper in gullible Anthony’s head. For his part, Marty has every intention of clinging to Lesly’s extreme “normalcy” as salvation from this sick clan. But old habits die hard.

MacLeod’s centerpiece (preserved in the helmer’s faithful screenplay) reprises the twins’ adolescent specialty act: a mock slo-mo imitation, complete with pink Chanel ensemble and gun, of the famous Zapruder footage. Playing out this fatal historical moment, needless to say, does not improve chances for collective Pascal family well-being.

Staging-wise, Waters might have made even more of the jet-black humor in these climactic segs, but auds are likely to find them conceptually quite outre enough. Aside from a few unnecessarily earnest moments (between Marty and Lesly), plus one confused scene transition early on, he manages to open up the text while maintaining its perilous mix of arch wit, pathos and suspense.

The House of Yes


A Miramax release of a Bandeira Entertainment presentation. Produced by Beau Flynn, Stefan Simchowitz. Executive producer, Robert Berger. Co-producers, Ron Wechsler, Jeffrey L. Davidson. Directed, written by Mark Waters, adapted from the play by Wendy MacLeod


Camera (color), Mike Spiller; editor, Pamela Martin; music, Jeff Rona; production design, Patrick Sherman; costumes, Ed Giguere; casting, Mary Vernieu. Reviewed at Sundance Film Festival (competing), Jan. 18, 1997. Running time: 90 MIN


Jackie-O ..... Parker Posey Marty ..... Josh Hamilton Lesly ..... Tori Spelling Anthony ..... Freddie Prinze Jr. Mrs. Pascal ..... Genevieve Bujold Young Jackie-O ..... Rachael Leigh Cook

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