Last night I was in a mood to watch older movies and knit. Decided to watch something light, and as I visually scanned through our collection, “Housesitter” caught my eye. This 1992 romantic comedy directed by Frank Oz stars Steve Martin and Goldie Hawn, with Dana Delany, Julie Harris, Donald Moffat, and Peter MacNicol providing a great supporting cast. Newton Davis (Martin) is an architect who builds a dream house, puts a big red bow around it, and then shows it to his childhood sweetheart (Delany) and proposes. She turns him down. Fast forward to several months later, when Davis has a one-night stand with Gwen (Hawn), a waitress with a real gift for creating stories out of thin air and allowing others to see them as truth. Gwen decides she would like to see what it is like, living in that house and the community Davis described, so she moves into what was an empty house and makes it her home. Oh — and lets on that she is Davis’ wife, which comes as a surprise to his parents.
What I find most interesting about this movie (besides the comedic talents of Martin and Hawn, who are both gifted) is the celebration of Gwen’s creativity. It’s not just the richly detailed tall tales she makes up on the spot, or the way she decorates her space (even when it is a tiny apartment and she has no money), but the way she takes “average” life and reshapes it into something exciting. It is a filter, a point of view, that would not necessarily demand lies, just a richer imagination and sense of adventure. Gwen is inspiring, and her joy (and drama) changes the lives of those around her.
Which led me to watch “Overboard” next. This 1987 romantic comedy (I warned you I like romantic comedies) is directed by Garry Marshall and stars Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell (Hawn’s real-life husband). While it was filmed in Mendocino County and Fort Bragg (CA), it is supposed to be set in a tiny Oregon coastal community, and looks a lot like such areas were in the 1980s. It even reminds me of what Del Norte County looked like then. Goldie Hawn plays Joanna, a very rich, snobbish, yacht-owning socialite. When they have to put into this tiny harbor for repairs, she hires Dean Proffitt (Russell) to remodel her closet. They argue about the materials he has used, and as the yacht leaves the harbor she throws Proffitt and all his tools off the boat. We learn Proffitt is a single parent with four boys, and he’s having a rough time making ends meet (and the boys are a real handfull). That night Joanna falls overboard and ends up with amnesia. In the local hospital, her husband (Edward Herrmann) observes her through the one-way glass, and says, nope, that’s not my wife, and leaves. (Hawn plays rich bitch very well.) Proffitt decides to get his money by pretending Joanna is his wife, and having her be their housekeeper and “mother” to the boys.
What happens is that Joanna (now Annie) sees life from an entirely different perspective, and amazingly rises to the occasion. Hawn’s wonderful gift for comedy makes this character sparkle, and keeps her believeable. Again, we see her playing a character who is creative, who turns a real dump into a home. It reminds me what a difference some effort and imagination can make in a home. Her determination and assertiveness are channeled in different ways, and again Hawn’s character makes a difference in the lives around her.
Both movies are rated PG; “Housesitter” runs 1 hour 42 minutes, and “Overboard” runs 1 hour 52 minutes. These romantic comedies are enjoyable entertainment, and even carry truths that are worth absorbing. I’d give “Housesitter” 3.7 stars and “Overboad” 3.3. They are fun movies with a point.