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At the Movies: ‘The House of Yes’

October 9, 1997 GMT

Normal people remember what were doing the day JFK was shot.

The Pascal family lives it.

The Pascals shuffle around their giant white house outside Washington, D.C., in 1983 unable to absorb the enormity of what happened two decades ago on Nov. 22, 1963. Jackie-O (Parker Posey) strides the hardwood floors in pink chenille and a pillbox hat, reads assiduously about the Kennedy assassination and occasionally does something self-destructive. Anthony (Freddie Prinze, Jr.), back home after dropping out of a fancy school, can’t quite put his finger on what he does all day.

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Only Marty (Josh Hamilton), who recently escaped to New York, seems to have shaken off the Kennedy curse.

Or so he thinks. But within seconds of bringing his fiancee home for Thanksgiving, Marty is sucked into the black hole of emotional obsession that is his family.

Thanksgiving at the Pascal place gets pretty ugly pretty fast, as holidays with family frequently do. The Pascals don’t approve of Marty’s new mate one bit, and they have some distinctly dysfunctional ways of expressing their displeasure.

``What exactly are you trying to do?″ his mother (Genevieve Bujold) asks accusingly within minutes of his arrival.

``Be normal,″ Marty snipes in reply.

Meanwhile Jackie-O is whimpering at the bathroom mirror and little brother Anthony is entertaining the new guest by hitting on her.

``We’ve never had a guest,″ Anthony sheepishly explains when she finally questions his odd behavior.

Pretty soon it’s obvious why nobody’s ever visited the Pascals. And the family obsession with the Kennedy assassination is just a tiny piece of it.

The Pascals are supposed to represent everything that’s morally repugnant about the leisure class. They’re decadent, snobby and cold. They’re no good to anybody, including themselves.

Jackie-O is in and out of mental hospitals and keeps going off her medicine. Anthony is a model sociopath. And mother does not win any prizes for warmth.

Oh, by the way. ``The House of Yes″ is a comedy. And a pretty funny one, too.

Parker Posey has a ball with Jackie-O, the uncontrollable rich kid who’s either frighteningly insane or merely spoiled. She gleefully terrorizes her entire family into granting her every desire, especially the most prominent among them _ a decidedly unhealthy attraction to her twin brother, Marty.

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Pitted against that irresistible force, Marty’s fiancee, Lesly, doesn’t stand a chance. Played by Tori Spelling, whose infinite plainness oddly suits her for the role, Lesly spends most of the movie cowering in her room trying to decide what to do.

It’s not that the Pascals don’t like lovely Lesly. It’s just that she seems to be making Jackie-O very upset. And when Jackie-O gets upset, people get hurt.

Naturally, Marty pays dearly for his attempt at normalcy. But in a way, he deserves it _ he’s as responsible as anybody for what the Pascal family has become.

``The House of Yes″ is based on the play by Wendy MacLeod and it shows. Most of the lines have the stagey feel of being aimed more at the audience than the other characters. It’s one of those ``let’s put a whole bunch of really weird people together in an isolated setting and see what happens″ productions.

``The House of Yes″ is written and directed by Mark Waters, and produced by Beau Flynn and Stefan Simchowitz. It is rated R.

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Motion Picture Association of America rating definitions:

_G _ General audiences. All ages admitted.

_PG _ Parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.

_PG-13 _ Special parental guidance strongly suggested for children under 13. Some material may be inappropriate for young children.

_R _ Restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

_NC-17 _ No one under 17 admitted.