Directed by: Bill Forsyth (Local Hero)
Starring: Christine Lahti, Sara Walker, Andrea Burchill, Anne Pitoniak
After a series of popular and critically praised comedies in Scotland, like Local Hero (1983) and Comfort and Joy (1984), Bill Forsyth came to America to make Housekeeping (1987). The acclaim for the third film was much the same. The popularity was not—perhaps because the film was marketed by Columbia Pictures as a quirky comedy. It’s quirky all right, but I’m not sure I’d really call it a comedy. Perhaps Columbia thought no one would notice that it was only mildly amusing and more than a little disturbing. Then again, you wonder if no one at the studio read the script—the plot gets underway when a woman leaves her two daughters at her mother’s house and then drives off a cliff—or noticed the slight undercurrent of somberness inherent in all of Forsyth’s work.
Despite the marketing issue, I think it’s doubtful that this shambling character study of two girls (Sarah Walker and Andrea Burchill) and their bizarre “free-spirit” aunt (Christine Lahti) was ever likely to attain more than mild cult status. (Its cult also seems to miss the point that Lahti seems just as much disturbed as a free spirit.) The most actual enthusiasm I can work up is an admiration for the film’s peculiar tone, and a nod to its spot-on ending and Forsyth’s refusal to compromise his vision. It’s an interesting work and well worth a look, but in the end it’s hard not to wonder what possible audience Forsyth had in mind for it.
The Hendersonville Film Society will show Housekeeping at 2 p.m. Sunday, June 15, in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing Retirement Community, 333 Thompson St., Hendersonville. (From Asheville, take I-26 to U.S. 64 West, turn right at the third light onto Thompson Street. Follow to the Lake Point Landing entrance and park in the lot on the left.)