Leap Year

DVD (2010)  Written by Deborah Kaplan, Harry Elfont/Directed by Anand Tucker STARRING: Amy Adams, Matthew Goode, Adam Scott

The story  If a man receives a marriage proposal from a woman on Leap Day, he must accept it — that’s what tradition says. So with February 29th around the corner, and no proposals on the horizon from her long-time boyfriend Jeremy, Anna Brady (played by Amy Adams) decides to take matters into her own hands. She will hunt down Jeremy (Adam Scott) on his Dublin business trip and pop the question! If it worked for her grandma Jane, it’s gotta work for her too, right? We quickly discover the answer to that as a storm redirects Anna’s flight and she ends up washed ashore in a tiny Irish town a day’s journey from Dublin. It’s there where she meets Declan O’Callaghan (Matthew Goode) — a tall, dark and brooding Irishman who runs the town’s only hotel as well as taxi service. In the shadow of Declan’s rugged manliness and Mr. Rochester-like aloofness, the trendy metrosexual weasel-face that is Anna’s fiance-to-be melts away like a bad dream come morning. But Anna is determined to get to Dublin and propose to Jeremy. Declan agrees to drive her to Dublin and the journey begins.

It’s a 6.5  Leap Year is a quiet movie, with a script that borders on pathetic at times. But heaven help me, I really like it. Despite the flaws of the film (dreadfully dull and contrived Boston scenes book-end the film), the movie springs to life once in Ireland, and is full of romantic little vignettes. Leap Year  is formulaic, but the chemistry between Adams and Goode totally wins you over. I can count three girlfriends of mine who speak of Leap Year with a happy sigh, and Roger Ebert, my go-to critic, gave this movie three stars out of four.

Sweet extras  As film critic Roger Ebert once wrote: “When was the last time you saw a boring Irishman in a movie?” With phrases like “jabs” (boobs) and “brown trout” (poop), the world is never dull. Here are some of the Irish phrases or objects referenced in Leap Year. You’ll find these useful for understanding some of the movie dialogue, as a few of them are never explained. What is a tripe and why should you be repulsed by it? You’ll find out below.

chancer: a scheming opportunist

eejit: an idiot

diddly-eye: foolish or foolishness

bob: money, cash

hang sandwich: a ham sandwich

tripe: edible sections from the stomachs of farm animals, in particular oxen, sheep, or goats. (Note: if you ever want to eat again, don’t google images).

Sláinte! (pronounced slán-jah):  an Irish toast, meaning “to your health.”

a claddagh ring: A  traditional Irish ring that features two hands clasping a heart topped by a crown. It is most often given as a token of love, though it can also mean friendship. When worn on the right ring finger with the heart pointing to the fingertip, the wearer indicates they are single. Worn on the same finger but with the heart pointing toward the palm suggests the wearer is in a relationship. When the ring is on the left hand wedding ring finger, it means the person is married or engaged.

Good for who? Leap Year is great for a quiet night at home alone. And this one is for rom-com lovers only. We are a special breed and no one but the forgiving rom-com aficionado will find the worthwhile moments beyond the movie’s flaws. Sexual references are minimal, with some hells, a couple of as*es, and one very loud and distinct  JC  which will grate on the baptist minister’s wife like fingernails on a chalkboard. That’s too bad, because I think she would have liked this one.

Loved this movie? Live this movie! Coq au vin and the toast you’ve been looking for

The toast  Anna and Declan stumble upon an Irish wedding, and are invited to stay. The bride gives this toast to her husband, which several readers of this blog have asked me about over the past two years. This would be a lovely one to recite at your own wedding or that of a friend.

“May you never steal, lie or cheat.

But if you must steal, then steal away my sorrows.

And if you must lie, lie with me all the nights of my life.

And if you must cheat, then please cheat death,

because I couldn’t live a day without you.”

The recipe  On their travels, Declan and Anna stay in a small farmhouse and cook dinner for their hosts. They make the french dish coq au vin with fresh ingredients found in the garden. Rumour has it this dish — a sort of chicken and veg stew braised with red wine — takes several hours to prepare authentically, but quick and dirty recipes for it abound online. Here’s a delicious quicky coq au vin recipe from http://www.eatingwell.com that I tested on the weekend. It took about an hour, and I swapped out the dry red Zinfandel for red cooking wine which was cheaper and still delish!

Eatingwell.com said it makes four servings, but I found it only made three. Note: I served my dish with yellow baby potatoes — halved, sprinkled with olive oil, and baked in the oven on a cookie sheet while I prepared the recipe.  Also note: Unlike Declan O’Callaghan, I did not kill my own chicken to make this.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 bone-in chicken breasts (about 12 ounces each), skin removed, trimmed
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, divided
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 4 ounces mushrooms, quartered (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 2 large carrots, thinly sliced
  • 1 small onion, halved and sliced
  • 1 teaspoon crumbled dried rosemary
  • 1 14-ounce can reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine, preferably Zinfandel
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

HOW TO MAKE IT

  1. Place flour in a shallow dish. Cut each chicken breast in half on the diagonal to get 4 portions about equal in weight. Sprinkle the chicken with 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper and roll through the flour.
  2. Whisk water with 2 tablespoons of the leftover flour in a small bowl; set aside.
  3. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium and add the chicken. Cook, turning once or twice, until lightly browned on all sides, 5 to 7 minutes total. Transfer to a plate. (To make sure the chicken would be cooked completely through, I gave the thicker pieces a head start in the microwave. Just a few minutes for each piece).
  4. Add 1 tablespoon oil to the pan; reduce heat to medium-low. Add mushrooms, carrots, onion and rosemary and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are softened and browned in spots, about 5 minutes.
  5. Add broth, wine, tomato paste and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Stir until the tomato paste is dissolved. Bring to a simmer.
  6. Return the chicken to the pan. Cover, reduce the heat to maintain a simmer and cook, stirring once or twice, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breast registers 165°F, 15 to 20 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a serving plate. (Note: I did not have a thermometer to test the chicken — another reason I pre-cooked the chicken a bit in the microwave first).
  7. Increase the heat under the sauce to medium-high. Stir the water-flour mixture, add it to the pan and cook, stirring, until the sauce is thickened, about 1 minute. Serve the chicken with the sauce, sprinkled with parsley. Optional baby potatoes placed along side.

Enjoy!

Paula Jane

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Something Borrowed

(Image: Warner Bros)

DVD (2011)  Written by Jennie Snyder/Directed by Luke Greenfield    STARRING: Kate Hudson, Ginnifer Goodwin, Colin Egglesfield, John Krasinski

Beautiful, self-absorbed Darcy and meek and mild Rachel have been BFFs since childhood. Despite Darcy’s relentless attention-seeking dramatics (often at Rachel’s expense), there is a strong bond between the two women, sealed by the fact that they can break it down 80’s style to Salt-n-Pepa’s Push It. But everything’s called into question when Darcy announces she is engaged to Dex — a man Rachel has been secretly in love with since her college days. When Rachel discovers that the handsome and good-hearted Dex (Tom Cruise-esque Colin Egglesfield) has always had feelings for her too, she and Dex start down a path that can only lead to someone getting hurt. The question is: who will that someone be?

It’s a 7.5  Something Borrowed fulfills most of my rom-com needs: twists and turns, a rich cast of characters, and several trips to a beach house in the Hamptons. The lustrous Kate Hudson is always fun, and only she could make you care about a heinous little minx like Darcy. If you like romantic comedies, you will have a good time with this one. Though I felt unsatisfied with the ending, it was realistic and I can appreciate that.

Sweet extras  The supporting cast is pretty fab: John Krasinski plays Ethan, Rachel’s long-time pal and a reluctant member of the group of friends. Ashley Williams (known to me as the lovely “Cupcake” from How I Met Your Mother) is hilarious as a straight-up crazy girl.  We also have the funny Steve Howie within the circle of friends, though I thought the actor was Brian Austin Green until just five minutes ago.

Good for who?  This is a great movie for a GNO (perhaps followed by a little badminton?). This will make a super rental one day — great for having the girls over on a summer evening for supper and a movie.  Something Borrowed is rated PG for sexual references and a bit of language. Too much dirty talk for the Baptist minister’s wife, I’m afraid.

Something Borrowed is based on the 2005 best-seller of the same name, written by Emily Giffin.

Loved this movie? Live this movie! badfriend-minton: let’s make it a thing!

Wanting to out the secrets being kept by members of the group, the ever-bitter Ethan turns a friendly game of beach badminton into a vendetta. When a team scores a point, he says, someone on that team is permitted to tell a secret about someone else. This is a great game for angry and self-destructive sorts. If badminton is not available to you, try ping pong or shooting baskets from the free-throw line. It doesn’t matter which game you play, as long as you’re hurting someone!

“But Paula,” you say, “I have a badminton set and I like games but I’m not 100% sold on the idea of destroying any of my current friendships. What do I do?” Try a friendlier version of the game: turn it into a game of Truth or Dare, with the point scorers asking their opponents to either accept a dare or reveal a harmless truth about themselves.  Badminton doesn’t have to hurt, people, but the great news is that it can if you want it to!

Paula Jane

(image of Kate Hudson: celebsinstyle.com)

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The Philadelphia Story

DVD (1940) Written by Donald Ogden Stewart/Directed by George Cukor           STARRING: Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant, James Stewart

(image: MGM Studios)

The story  A writer and photographer for a tabloid magazine concoct a plot to sneak into the fabulous and private wedding of Tracy Lord, a member of one of Philadelphia’s oldest families. The young and beautiful Tracy is a cool, self-righteous socialite who is determined not to marry another husband with as many flaws as her first one (she and her first husband C. K. Dexter Haven had “married on impulse and divorced in a rage” two years ago). Refusing to ever let passion control her again,Tracy thinks she is very much in control of her world now. But when the tabloid reporters — along with her ex-husband and her estranged father — show up at the Lord Mansion just 24 hours before the nuptials, the cold and seemingly unfeeling goddess finds her marble exterior is starting to crack.

This is the role that made Katharine Hepburn’s career (prior to this she was referred to as  “box office poison”). Hepburn as Tracy Lord is the master of aloofness as she floats about the great Lord mansion like a partial deity. Her home is full of classical Greek and Roman statuary and architecture which seem to add to her mythical force. Katharine is brilliant as she slowly softens throughout the film. And if you’ve never had the pleasure of watching Jimmy Stewart or Cary Grant on screen, this is the exact right film in which to do it. Both are super charming as C.K. Dexter Haven (Grant) and tabloid writer Macaulay Connor (Stewart).

The Philadelphia Story is more than 70 years old, but it feels very fresh. Despite the annoying depiction of two female characters turning a blind eye to their man’s infidelity, it’s a wonderful comedy and a strong female role for 1940s Hollywood. And there’s nothing like 1940’s film dialogue, is there? “Oh, Dext,” despairs Tracy Lord, “I’m such an unholy mess of a girl.” In romantic comedies like The Philadelphia Story, the dialogue clips along at a wonderfully entertaining pace. Some of the greatest dialogue in film history comes from films of this era.

The envelope, please The Philadelphia Story was nominated for six Oscars, and won two: James Stewart for best actor, and Donald Ogden Stewart for best adapted screenplay.

Sweet extras Best opening scene of a rom-com ever. Forty seconds of genius. 

Good for who? Call up the Baptist minister’s wife! The language is clean, and although there are numerous adult themes, this is 1940 filmmaking so sexual innuendos are heavily veiled. Children wandering into the room while you watch won’t be a problem either: they won’t have a clue what’s going on. This is an excellent choice for any adult, as long as he or she likes classic films (be mindful that it’s black and white, which drives some people to drink).

Where can I get it? Netflix doesn’t carry it yet, but you can buy from Amazon or rent the DVD from a place with a good classic film collection. In Halifax or Bedford, Nova Scotia, you’ll find it at Video Difference.


Love this movie? Live this movie! Bathing baldies … I mean, beauties. 

“My, she’s yar!” Tracy Lord says of the model yacht True Love. Well yar swim cap is pretty yar too, we want to say in return! It’s true, ladies — bald can be beautiful. If you too want to be a stone-cold retro goddess,  a bathing cap is where it’s at. Here, Katharine Hepburn as Tracy Lord takes a dip in the large pool on her estate, sporting a plain white cap.  Keira Knightley showed off the same look (with chip strap) in Atonement, a 2007 film set in 1930’s England. Similar caps can be purchased at Amazon.com and Speedo.com.



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Made of Honor

(Columbia Pictures)

DVD (2008) Written by A.Sztykiel, D.Kaplan, H.Elfont/Directed by Paul Weiland   STARRING: Patrick Dempsey, Michelle Monaghan

The story: Hannah and Tom meet at Cornell University when he mistakes her for her roommate in the middle of the night. Hannah maces Tom in the eyes with Eternity by Calvin Klein and they are BFFL ever since. It’s now 10 years later, they’re living in New York, and they’re just as tight as ever. Tom (played by Patrick Dempsey) is a wealthy, heartless womanizer and Hannah (Michelle Monaghan) is a loveless art conservator geek. She says “I love you” too much and he has a bizarre need to only say those words to strange dogs. He’s been with so many women but Hannah has never been one of them. She’s his best friend and that’s good enough for him. Hannah, meanwhile, seems to have hidden feelings for this man-child but Tom is oblivious.

Hannah is suddenly called away to Scotland on a paintings acquisition trip for the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She is gone for six weeks, and this is when Tom realizes just how much he misses her. It’s a total Ross and Rachel moment (almost eerily so) when Hannah finally returns and Tom meets her at the airport with a bouquet of flowers and the intention to confess how he feels. But she’s met a new man and he’s come back to New York with her to announce their engagement. “Tom,” Hannah asks, “will you be my maid of honor?”

It’s a 6 Made of Honor is nothing near genius, but there’s something about this little story that pleases me. Perhaps it’s the Scottish scenery that woos me, or the lead characters, or the humour in watching Patrick Dempsey hanging with the girls as he carries out his MOH duties? The movie should have spent more time up front developing Hannah and Tom’s friendship, and I wish Tom’s moments with the dogs didn’t feel so obviously plopped in just to build the theme. But still, I refuse to abandon it. I think it’s cute, even though critics have not been kind (it received a 13% on Rotten Tomatoes and phrases like “bonehead plot” have been thrown around like wedding confetti.)  Several of my girl friends, however, have watched Made of Honor and enjoyed it. It’s not a movie you should buy to own, but it does make a good cheapy weekend rental.

The envelope, please Made of Honor should win a prize for Most humiliating attempt to win back a girl.  Patrick Dempsey in a mini kilt with white briefs underneath. I needn’t say more.

Sweet extras The scenery is worth the watch. Fiancée Colin lives in a Scottish castle and the last third of the movie takes place here. It’s actually the beautiful and haunting 13th-century Eilean Donan castle, which rests in the Scottish highlands just outside Dornie. The Eilean Donan castle was also featured in several other films including Highlander (1985), Elizabeth: The Golden Age (2007), and the James Bond film The World is not Enough (1999). Interior castle shots are a mishmash of other locations, including Dunvegan castle on the Isle of Skye.

Good for who? Watch this movie if you like Patrick Dempsey, wedding-related rom-coms, or the sublimity of castles by moonlight. But watch out: there’s coarse language and sexual references scattered steadily throughout. Don’t even bother inviting the Baptist minister’s wife over for this one because just when you think you’ve heard the word “balls” enough, you’ll hear it again. I suppose if one doesn’t like the movie, one could make a drinking game of it?

The movie is rated PG-13 for language and sexual references. Here’s a full breakdown of the content on Screenit.com’s review of the movie.

Paula Jane


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Notting Hill

(Image: Polygram Filmed Entertainment; from HookedonHouses.net)

DVD (1999) Written by Richard Curtis/Directed by Roger Michell         STARRING: Julia Roberts, Hugh Grant

Poor William Thacker! The handsome but lonely bloke lives in Notting Hill, London with a perpetually semi-nude roommate and no hope of ever giving himself to love again. He was once married, he tells us in the opening narration, but this woman left him for someone who “looks exactly like Harrison Ford.” William (played by Hugh Grant)  is content to work by day in his travel bookshop and spend his evenings at home. Life is uncomplicated for William — uncomplicated, that is, until American actress Anna Scott (Julia Roberts) walks into his shop. What follows is one of the best romantic comedies of the past 20 years.

I watched 10 Hugh Grant films back-to-back last June.  I began with Notting Hill, and in hindsight that was an error as I had set the bar too high and the likes of Nine Months and Bridget Jones (both one and two) could not compete.  I have not been a Julia Roberts fan since after Pretty Woman, but Notting Hill reminds me of Julia’s strengths as an actress. She and Hugh present the tale of a rather charming relationship yet there are moments of extreme emotional intensity which play out in a very real way. The final act of Notting Hill includes a scene reminiscent of the end of Roman Holiday (Gregory Peck could even rival Hugh for floppiest hair if Gregory hadn’t greased it back like that).

A few questions arose for me while watching Notting Hill: How does William make a living in a bookstore that nobody frequents? Why doesn’t his naked roomy catch cold? Why did William’s wife leave him for someone who reportedly “looks exactly like Harrison Ford” when William looks exactly like Hugh Grant? Equally as cute, I should say.

Sweet extras William brings home actress Anna to supper in one of the best meet-the-family scenes in all of film.

Good for who? This is rated PG-13, so it’s not for kids at all. There are several sexual references and some colourful language. It’s Hugh Grant and it’s a British film so what can I say, people? The f-bomb drops twice. I would not watch this with my 13-year-old daughter or the Baptist minister’s wife. For a content review, visit Screenit.com: Notting Hill.

Loved this movie? Live this movie! Marc Chagall

William Thacker has a print of a Marc Chagall painting hanging on his kitchen wall. Anna Scott admires it. “It feels how love should be — floating through a dark blue sky,” she says.

“With a violin playing goat,” adds William.

“Well, yes,” says Anna. “Happiness is not happiness without a violin playing goat.”

The colourful painting is La Mariée (The Bride), a now-famous work by Jewish-Russian artist Marc Chagall. The image depicts a young bride, her husband, and yes a violin-playing goat (although let’s not overlook the lovestruck fish, leaping over houses as he celebrates either the marriage or the fact that he has been granted human arms.)  Much of Chagall’s paintings, lithographs, and stained glass work contain images of, or were inspired by, his love for deceased wife Bella Rosenfeld Chagall who died in 1944 of an infection. This fact makes Chagall’s work both beautiful and haunting, as well as deeply romantic.

A reproduction of La Mariée was made for the film (the original painting by Chagall is in a private art collection in Japan). To avoid the reproduction one day being mistaken for the original, the fake Chagall was destroyed after completion of Notting Hill. But don’t despair! You can have your own fake Chagall with just a few quick clicks at Allposters.com.

My favourite work by Marc Chagall is Les Amants au ciel rouge (Lovers in the red sky), 1950.



Paula Jane

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So I Married an Axe Murderer

DVD (1993) Written by Robbie Fox/Directed by Thomas Schlamme

(Photo: TriStar Pictures)

Suspecting your loved one of being a serial killer: we’ve all been there. But for San Francisco poet Charlie Mackenzie, this kind of thing is becoming a habit: every girlfriend is mentally ill, or smells like soup, or steals his cats. At least according to him. Charlie has a serious fear of commitment, and as he reads yet one more of his mournful doomed-relationship poems at open-mic night, it doesn’t look as if any woman will ever be good enough for him.

But love and haggis are in the air, and Charlie (played by Mike Myers) soon meets the smart and pretty Harriet Michaels (Nancy Travis) at her butcher shop downtown. Charlie is smitten and things are going well — until he convinces himself that the sweet little Harriet is actually what the Weekly World News calls Mrs. X, the infamous Honeymoon Murderer who marries, kills, then disappears into the night in search of another victim. Will Charlie push through his paranoia and find happiness with Harriet, or will he leave her just like he’s left all the others?

As goofy and as fluffy as this movie is, So I Married an Axe Murderer is impossible to hate. Nancy Travis has never been the most convincing actress, but there is a cute chemistry between her and Myers  and I like her a lot here. As for Myers, he steals the show from himself, playing a second role as Charlie’s perpetually-smashed insult-wielding father. In his thick Scottish brogue, Stuart Mackenzie nags his son Charlie for being a mamma’s boy (“Float away, ya fairy!”) and sloppily sings the wrong lyrics to every song he knows. Axe Murderer, which is unique in the rom-com world because it’s told from the guy’s point of view, is a classic in my books. It’s no Roman Holiday, but it is a lot of fun and it’s a great pick if you’re wary of “chick flicks.”

Sweet extras Watch for the scene where Myers as Stuart Mackenzie rants about his conspiracy theories involving the pope, the queen, and Colonel Sanders. Anthony LaPaglia, who plays Charlie’s friend Tony, can’t keep himself from cracking up, and you can tell he’s laughing for real.

The envelope, please I award Axe Murderer the following prizes:

Best wedding dress in a rom-com: This gothic-looking hooded chiffon and satin wedding death, I mean “‘dress,”  is gorgeous. How I’d love to float down the aisle (or through a cemetery) in that beautiful thing.

Best honeymoon destination in a rom-com: The fictional Poet’s Corner Inn, a neo-classical mansion snuggled in the mountains, is a lovers paradise. Well, it would be if it were real. The mountains you see behind the inn are  fake, and the inn itself is actually the Dunsmuir-Hellman Historic Estate. You can’t stay overnight, but you CAN get married there (and murdered too, perhaps?).

Good for who? An excellent choice for the gal or guy who detests romantic comedies, but feels the pressure to rent/download one for a romantic night in. Guys, if you and your wife/girlfriend/weekend lover don’t LOL at this movie, I will personally send a handwritten letter of apology to you.  Note to the Baptist minister’s wife: Sorry I said “weekend lover” up there, and second, this movie is probably a wee bit too racy for you. Sexual content is no big deal (unless you count Mike Myers bare bottom, but it’s played for laughs — nothing sexy about it), but the language is a little jarring with two F-bombs and a light peppering of other words throughout.

Loved this movie? Live this movie! The Weekly World News is 100% true — that’s a fact.

Charlie’s mother refers to the Weekly World News scandal rag as “the paper” and to her, the content of this paper is irrefutable. Cigarette in hand, she peruses the paper each evening, learning about the world around her. You can too! The infamous Weekly World News — which gave us the truth about Hitler’s gaggle of love children as well as tales of the flesh-starved Bat Boy —  stopped its hard copy version in 2007, but its website is still going. If you care about the facts and nothing but the facts, you’ll get your news here and only here: http://weeklyworldnews.com/

Samples and first lines from today’s WWN headline news, for January 2011:

Kim Kardashian crisis: “Tragedy struck Kim Kardashian last night on a private flight from New Jersey to Las Vegas.  Her left butt cheek exploded.”

Megan Fox marries but she’s still a man: “WWN has confirmed that Megan Fox married Brian Austin Green on June 24th.  WWN also confirmed that she is still a man. … One guest overheard Fox saying she thought she looked like Alan Alda in her wedding gown.”

Mike Tyson has a pigeon fetish: “…Tyson, 44, will exhibit an unfamiliar, and sometimes uncomfortable, tender side as he shows the depth of his love for pigeons.”

Tuna boy of New Jersey: “A rare mutation happened to Fred Allan on the way to his Thanksgiving feast.  His head turned into a Tuna. Last week, Fred Allan, an angler who went missing three miles off the coast of New Jersey, was spotted in Jersey City on his way to a Thanksgiving feast. Fred sat through his Thanksgiving meal with his family without them noticing that his head had turned into a tuna. … It wasn’t until he was walking home when a little boy, Chucky Thompson, saw Fred on the street and screamed, “Your head is a tuna fish!”

Paula Jane

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Housesitter

DVD (1992) Written by Mark Stein / Directed by Frank Oz                               STARRING: Steve Martin, Goldie Hawn

(Image: hookedonhouses.net)

Housesitter is a movie I always recommend to those who want a rom-com that’s heavy on the “com” and not so much the “rom.” This movie is sort of the antithesis of Sleepless in Seattle, which we all know is a masterpiece of ooey-gooey emotional goodness.  That’s not to say that Housesitter is not moving or romantic, because it is. But the development of the relationship between the lead characters sort of sneaks up on you in a conclusion that’s cute and satisfying yet relatively painless for the viewer who gets wigged out by heartfelt monologues or too many girl tears.

Steve Martin plays architect Newton Davis, a man who has been in love with the same woman since the 9th grade. Now he is  finally popping the question — not with a diamond ring but with a beautiful house he designed and built himself, wrapped in a huge red bow. “You are so nuts!” Becky exclaims upon seeing the house, to which he replies “And you are so sane! It’s perfect!”  But will she marry him?  “No!” she retorts, and three months later, Newton is still broken-hearted and the engagement house sits in the country, unlived in and empty.  But after a one-night stand with a fakey Hungarian waitress named Gwen (Goldie Hawn), Newton decides it’s time to move on and he heads to his hometown to put the house up for sale. Much to his surprise, the house is now being  inhabited by the one-night stand, and she’s been presenting herself around town as Newton’s wife. She is cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs, Newton is certain, but he allows Gwen to stay when he realizes he can use her to win Becky’s love once and for all.

Goldie Hawn is  funny and beautiful, and quite a different physical specimen from the rom-com leads of the past decade or so. Housesitter was made in 1992, back in the days when it was okay to have some junk in the trunk, and Goldie strikes me as a cross between Jenn Aniston, Madonna, and perhaps a half-baked aunt we like to visit every summer. Gwen seems to be a con-artist at first glance, but when we  realize that all she wants is a place to belong,  it puts a soft edge on an otherwise manipulative character.

As for Steve Martin, I could sing his praises all day (brilliant comedic banjo-plucking art-collecting writer/actor/Renaissance man) but for now I will stick to the subject at hand and say that no one but Steve Martin can slide back and forth between gentleman and supreme nitwit with such ease. If you like Transition Steve (post-Jerk but still maintaining a healthy dose of goofball), you’ll like Housesitter.

Sweet extras Steve singing “Too Ra Loo Ra Loo Ral.” You can’t live without it.

Good for who? This is a funny one for both guys and girls, and will make a great rental for a date night at home. For the content conscious among you (you know who you are), there’s a bit of mild language and a few sexual references but nothing graphic.

Loved this movie? Live this movie! Wrapping it up with a big red bow

The big red bow is great for unwrappable gifts like a car or a piano or Newton’s engagement house to Becky. But many of us can’t afford to give the gift of shelter or transport, so does that mean we’re doomed to never partake in the gentle beauty that is the big red bow?  Nonsense! I recall the last time I bought a shower gift: the gift was $20, and the wrapping paper, tape, and ribbon came to $15. Obscene, but what are my choices? Re-using old paper or giftbags is a great idea, but sometimes they can look too worn. I like the idea of presenting a small gift with all of the splendor of a huge one — tied up with nothing but a red bow.  It’s cheap and stylish and it looks so cool that others will assume they should be doing it too. Yes, it can be said that giving an “unwrapped” gift is ruining the surprise, but chances are the person has demanded the gift through their registry or Christmas list and already knows what’s coming. Not only does a red bow scream class, but it also says “I know you already knew what this gift was going to be so let’s just cut the crap. Happy wedding shower, your majesty!”

Below I demonstrate with household items just how great a red bow can look on a little gift.

Books are perfect for this simple yet classic treatment.  Adorned with this fine red bow, painter John Singer Sargent’s Madame X looks even more stuck up than she apparently already was.

No, that’s not a gemstone from King Tut’s burial collar. That’s a yard-sale rooster.

You ask: “What on earth IS this?” I say: Who cares! It’s wrapped in a big red bow so it MUST be valueable!

Even a week-old container of red onions looks like a gift from the Queen when presented with a velvet red bow.  If you hand over this gift and the receiver says “Snooty much?” before sauntering away, you’ll know you’re working it.

Try the red bow idea at the next birthday or shower you’ve been invited to. If you are a clutz and absolutely cannot tie a decent bow, check out this great little quickie tutorial.

Paula Jane

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