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Good Housekeeping
Wrt/ Dir. Frank Novak
Str. Bob Mills, Petra Western, Zia, Tracey Adams
Opens November 20th

I conned a friend of mine into seeing Good Housekeeping with me at an advanced screening about a week ago. We arrive twenty minutes early and I deposit my hapless victim (call her Kristin, since that's her name) right in the center of the theater and try to find the bathroom, no small feat in these weird little screening rooms pinched between random floors of weird office buildings in midtown. I see Jack (let's call him such because after what happened that's all he'd be doing that night), a 35-ish balding man standing outside of the projectionists booth, waiting for what I can only assume to be his blind date. I assume 'blind date' because Jack, first of all, is practically vibrating with nervous energy, and, secondly, asks me if I am looking for him and what my name is. I inform him that I am actually looking for the men's room, to which he titters rather like a choking sparrow; I pointedly do not tell him my name. Eventually from the men's room emerges Roger (so called because I figure that's all he was looking for out of the evening, the poor thing), I rush toiletwards before I can catch Jack's awkward greeting.

Back in the theater I find Jack and Roger sitting in front of Kristin and me. As I settle into my creaky, heavily reclining seat (god! you could just die in those seats, they're so comfy), Jack leans over to Roger, whispers something in his ear, and the two get up and shuffle out of their seats and sit behind us. I have no idea what we have done to prompt this, but I am perfectly happy because now I can recline even further into the almost horizontal chair.

Roger and Jack end up sitting directly in front of another man, Bear (so called because I am a very cruel person and this man was quite large). Now, Bear is not too happy with the two love birds; the seats, as I've said, recline quite far, and Bear requires a lot of space for his legs, so he begins to sigh rather loudly. Eventually Jack and Roger, getting the hint, get up and move several seats over to the left. Jack, however not wanting to lose face in front of his blind date, decides that they are going to re-claim the seats they have just abandoned and demands that they move back. Ah! The things we do in the attempt to impress. Roger is mewing quietly that he doesn't really care where they sit, and what ever seat is fine. From what I can tell, this date is going considerably worse than the one Anna-Nicole Smith just had with that Internet millionaire who took her bull-riding.

This is where it gets kind of weird. Now, Bear, not to be outdone and refusing to abandon his leg room, comes up with what is, obviously, the only solution for the situation.

He kicks Jack's seat. I don't mean he taps it with his foot. I mean Bear winds back and lets fly with his eighty pound drumstick right to where Jack's spine would be if not for the thin sheet of metal and several inches of comfy red cushion. It makes a thud, rather than a clang, that sounds quite a lot like a dead body has just fallen from the rafters in the lobby. Roger, obviously shocked says something sort of faggy like "My word!" Jack, stunned, jumped up and does what any self-respecting burly guy on a blind date would do. He runs out of the room and returns with the lovely PR assistant, Karen (call her that because I don't remember her name, even though I really, really should), explaining exactly what has happened to him, in exactly the whiny petulant voice you would imagine him using. Karen, eyes wide in nothing short of utter disbelief, informs Bear that if he does anything like that again he'll have to leave the screening. Bear grumbles but stays still. By now the entire theater is dead silent and slack jawed. Kristen's face is stuck halfway between absolute terror, and that 'I'm about to laugh so hard, I will definitely urinate all over this theater' expression.

Our poor Roger tells his date to sit down and enjoy the movie. Bear, however, not to allow pissed off dogs, to simply stay pissed off, jumps and plants himself on the other side of the pair, right next to Jack, and then crosses his legs. What now follows is a short play detailing the witty repartee, which then ensued. Feel free to gather some actors together and have them play it out for you to make it seem more real.

Bear: Stop touching me! ... I said stop touching me!
Jack: I'm not touching you
Bear: Yes you are, you keep touching my foot! ... Stop it!
Roger: It's like scenes from Good Housekeeping right here!
Bear: Stop it! … I said stop it! … I was here first! Why don't you move... touch me again and I'm calling the cops.
Jack: No you weren't I was here first... You're touching me... you stop touching me and I'll stop touching you.... Stop kicking me... the lady outside said you'd have to leave...
A hot 20-something critic from the front row: Will you both just shut the fuck up and watch the movie. You're acting like four-year-olds.
Bear: He should move... tell him to move over... I was here first...
Hottie: Seriously, guys shut up.
Bear: You stink, do you know that? You smell really bad.
Jack: Good.
Bear: Yeah, you sure do stink. I don't know how he can stand being so close to you, you smell so bad.
Jack: Fine! Come on, Roger. Let's move.
Roger: I'm done moving, I've been moving too much. You move.
Bear: You're a nazi, you know that!? A freaking Nazi.
Jack: Shut up.
Bear: NAZI!
Jack and Bear finally settle into their seats, Jack on the other side of Roger, away from Bear, and Bear in his original seat, one row back.
Jack: Roger, give me your jacket, I don't trust it over there. It's too close to him.
Bear: Your jacket stinks too. Nazi.

And then, as if on cue, the lights dim and the movie starts. Not long afterwards I was wishing they'd come back up so we could watch more of the altercation.

The Pros
It's funny. For example after every single instance where some form of harm is wrought upon one character by another (hit by a car, thrown in a dumpster, beat with a baseball bat, etc.) the offended has the same two reactions: Firstly pain / humiliation / defeat. But then: Joy at the fact that they can now sue the offender and never have to work another day again. "I'm-a-gunna-sue-ya" is probably the most spoken phrase in the movie. This paired with a constant supply of 'Legal advice' from the resident expert, who worked briefly as a paralegal, makes for a very funny, reoccurring joke.

The Cons
It's pretty boring. Don't get me wrong, Better Housekeeping does have a fascinating quality to it. Watching two of the whitest, trashiest pieces of Wonder bread attempt to one-up each other via escalating property damage is undoubtedly enthralling. However it's enthralling the way that two hamsters locked in mortal combat can be enthralling. When you see two cute, furry creatures trying to gnaw through each other's throat with their buck and very unsharp front teeth so that they are merged, indistinguishably, into one, rolling, quivering ball of fur, you can only stare on, mesmerized. The big problem is that, much like hamsters, these characters are interesting for only about five minutes, that's why you're letting them kill each other in the first place; that's why you root for total annihilation. What else are you going to do with them? This is from where the only glimmer of entertainment can be derived. What this says for the state of our entertainment industry, or my mental stability as a child, I don't know.

The movie doesn't try to move itself above it's calling, which is both a blessing and a let down. I'm not saying I wanted a high dramatic tale encompassing the myriad emotions and unbridled passions of an out-of-work Puppet Master memorabilia collector. But it could have at least tried to be more than three or four jokes told over and over again while pretending to be a long ass episode of Cops.


Pre-Theatre Entertainment: Four Slacked Jaws
The idiots scuffling before the movie, bore such a striking resemblance to the childishness of the characters on screen, and the blandness of both sets of dialogue were eerily similar. I think Modernica Pictures should hire these three to tour around the country with the movie. Kind of like those campy 60's movies presented in Smell-O-vision.

White Trashery: Three Bottles of Mad Dog 20/20
There's no denying these are some scary white trash folk. They aren't nearly as scary as, say, Gummo, but still it makes me real glad I live in Williamsburg.

Humor: Two-and-A-Half Benny's, Hill
There are some great one-liners and some funny reoccurring jokes, but it doesn't feel like the humor is doing anything for the story. More like it's there to make the movie more watchable

Overall: One-and-a-half Hipsters
I will admit it is entirely possible that I was so offset by the critical morons, that I'm judging this movie far too harshly. There are some very funny moments, coupled with utterly believable characters here. It's just a shame that the funny moments aren't believable, and the believable characters are nothing but quite sad.

B.C. Edwards
[email protected]


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[email protected] | November 2002 | Issue 32
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