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Housesitter
USA 1992
Directed by Frank Oz
Running time 100 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3 stars


Pound for pound there are more laughs to be had from Franks Oz’s tidy comedy than one might expect from such frothy middle-of-the-road fare.  This is mainly due to Mark Stein’s nicely-turned screenplay which is skilfully delivered by Steve Martin and Goldie Hawn performing their now-familiar schtick – Martin’s middle class lonely guy and Hawn’s daffy-but-smart blonde.

Martin plays architect Newton Davis whose proposal of marriage has been rejected by his long-time crush, Becky (Dana Delany). Sometime later the still-pining Davis meets Gwen (Hawn), a waitress.  They have a one-night stand that permutes into something else when Gwen moves into the picture-perfect New England house that Davis designed for himself and Becky and starts pretending to be his wife.

Of course we know how this odd-couple romance is going to end but Stein gives depth to the story with the clever device of having the couple lying about their feelings for each other in a deception which will eventually turn out to be true.  It’s a scenario which recalls Golden Age Hollywood films like Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers’ Shall We Dance (1937) and it works because there is a palpable sense of human need underlying the comedic contrivances of the plot.

Although both actors who were in their late forties at the time are at least a tad too old for their parts they execute perfectly the scenario which requires them to spin out ever more fantastic lies in order to keep their individually self-serving deception going, Martin is in fine form, using his physical comedy skills to embody the high-wire act that Davis must perform in order to keep up with Gwen and so win the prize he thinks that he wants while Hawn with seeming insouciance strings us and herself along to a destination that only we the audience really know.

Director Frank Oz knows how to deliver a neatly packaged comedy and does so here despite the fact that the predictable resolution comes a little too quickly.  The glaring exception is, however, the house in question which looks like a budget kit home that no even-vaguely-competent architect would have ever designed.

Available from: Shock Entertainment

 

 

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