Tuesday, February 11, 2014

767. HOUSEKEEPING (1987)

Running Time: 116 minutes
Directed By: Bill Forsyth
Written By: Bill Forsyth, from novel by Marilynne Robinson
Main Cast: Christine Lahti, Sara Walker, Andrea Burchill, Anne Pitoniak, Barbara Reese
Click here to view the trailer

800 DOWN...

All I'm gonna' say right now is, I can't believe I've watched 800 of these movies! I won't harp on it though, because I don't want to take away from the business at hand, which is "Housekeeping".

The story of "Housekeeping" is told via narration from one of the main characters, Ruthie (Walker), who, along with her sister Lucille (Burchill), are taken by their mother upon the film's opening to visit their grandmother. At this time, the girls are still quite young and once dropped off, the mother tells the girls to await their grandmother's return, while she goes to "do something" in the car. What proceeds is the mother driving the car off a cliff and the short vacation to grandma's turning into a permanent stay, as grandma unofficially adopts the girls. The girls grow up hearing stories about the grandfather, whom they never met since he died in a train accident and of his love for the mountains, due to the fact that he grew up on flat lands. With their grandma, the girls grow up in a home built by their deceased grandpa, in the town of Fingerbone, in Washington state. Later, once the girls are a little more grown, grandma passes away too, leaving the girls double orphaned (their father is still alive, although they've never met him). The house and all of grandma's things are left to the girls, but since they're still fairly young, their great aunt comes to Fingerbone to live with them and watch after them. The great aunt hates Fingerbone and when the girls' aunt, Sylvie (Lahti) comes to visit, the great aunt sees it as a great opportunity to go back to her own home and let Sylvie be the new guardian. The girls love Sylvie, at first. Despite the fact that she marches to the tune of her own drummer (to say the least - she's a bit cuckoo), they get a kick out of her and bask in all the stories she tells them, of their mother and grandparents. After a while, Lucille becomes fed up with Sylvie's eccentricities and decides to distance herself from both Sylvie and Ruthie, who loves Sylvie.


I don't usually say this, but I have a feeling that this is a case where the book is better than the movie. I have to say I adored the narration and I got the feeling that the actor was reading excepts directly from the novel, because it was just too eloquent and wordy to be written by a screenwriter. However, this one didn't really go anywhere did it? Like the Sylvie character, this entire film sort of marched to the beat of it's own drummer and left me with a "that's it?" feeling. Why was Sylvie so "out there"? Was she ill? Was I supposed to be seeing resemblance between the relationships of Ruthie & Lucille and Sylvie & her sister? I just got a strong "meh" feeling from this picture, while at the same time never hating it or dreading the remaining minutes. I couldn't help but continually try to figure something out, while at the same time not knowing if there even was something to figure out. I did enjoy the score, which seemed to hint that SOMETHING was going to come and make everything make sense, but that SOMETHING never came, even leaving us with an ambiguous ending. I will say, I did like the film's fairy tale like anecdotes, such as the flowers in the dictionary and the flooded house scene. Moments like this made me think that this movie was taking place on an entirely different plane of existence, which isn't a bad thing.

And what about that ending? So we're to believe that Sylvie and Ruthie make their way to freedom and live crazily ever after, in a world all their own? I'm sorry, but that ending just doesn't do it for me. I don't know. Like I said, I never hated the movie and actually found myself enjoying it for the most part. However, it was, sort of, a nothing happening movie and it seemed like there was some information that we weren't getting. Like I said, I have a feeling the novel clears up a lot of the unanswered questions and head scratching moments. For now, call it a fairly decent time at the movies and that's that. It's worth noting that this was booted from the newest edition of THE BOOK, in favor of Forsyth's "Local Hero". Haven't seen "Local Hero", but can't say I'm too upset about the exclusion of "Housekeeping".

RATING: 6.5/10  See, I DID like it, it was just missing that SOMETHING to send it into "must see" territory.


February 11, 2014  1:33am


  1. Several days ago I wrote quite a bit on this.. and for some reason when I hit send, it all vanished (mebbe I hit some other button my mistake)

    I'm not sure if I can summon up the energy to re-write what I wrote then, so I will stick to..

    I liked this one.
    Maybe not as much as I expected to.. on first viewing.. But it grew and grew as I looked back on it.

  2. That's disappointing that you lost what you wrote. I'm really sorry to hear that, as now I want to read it. Anyway...I just don't see this one growing on me. Maybe it's the kids as the mains that I didn't take to, I don't know. Although I did like this better than other films that have children in the lead roles, I overall just thought it was good and thats it.


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