Home Fries (1998)
Directed by Dean Parisot
Cast: Luke Wilson, Drew Barrymore, Catherine O'Hara, Jake Busey, Shelley Duvall, Chris Ellis.
1998 92 minutes
Rated: (for violence and profanity).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, November 28, 1998.
"Home Fries," has been wrongfully sentenced to a misleading ad campaign which makes the film look like a simple, sweet love story. But, on the other hand, I can also understand the marketer's decision, since, "Home Fries," is actually a dark comedy involving deception and murder, with a romance stuck in between. In some ways, it felt like a PG-13 version of another new, and far superior, film that was released on the same exact day, "Very Bad Things."
The first sign that this would not be your usual romance came in the first five minutes, in which a middle-aged man (Chris Ellis) is terrorized at night by a helicopter, and is scared to death. The people in the plane, we find out, are the man's sons, sympathetic Dorian (Luke Wilson) and bad-tempered Angus (Jake Busey), who only meant to frighten him a little because their domineering mother (Catherine O'Hara) wanted to seek revenge on him due to him having an affair. While in the helicopter, Dorian and Angus hear voices over their head phones, and suspect that someone might have heard the murder. After narrowing down the possible people it could be, they find out the voice was coming from Sally (Drew Barrymore), a sweet-natured young woman pregnant with Dorian and Angus' father's baby, who works at the Burger Matic, a fast-food restaurant. Dorian is forced to get a job there to figure out who the witness was, but in the process, begins to fall in love with Sally, even though his mother and brother want her dead!
As you can see, "Home Fries," is anything but an ordinary romance, but instead, a wicked, offbeat comedy, with a few action scenes sprinkled in for good (or bad) measure. Although I appreciate the fact that director Dean Parisot and screenwriter Vince Gilligan were trying to make an original film, it simply doesn't work.
The heart of the film does, in fact, come from the blossoming romance between Barrymore and Wilson (also dating in real life), and I liked all of their scenes together a whole lot. As always, Barrymore is radiant throughout, managing to develop a three-dimensional, likable character with an underwritten role. Wilson, who is actually the main character, is engaging and every match for Barrymore. Also lending support is O'Hara, who could have easily played one-note throughout, but chose instead to not just make her character a cliched villainess. Meanwhile, Shelley Duvall, as Sally's mother, was amusing, but not given enough screen time.
Unfortunately, for every good performance and delightful, well-written scene, there would be a large amount of off-the-wall material that did not work at all. It was as if two very different films had been forcefully molded into one. A climactic helicopter chase was annoying and failed to salvage my last remaining hope for the movie.
Perhaps my biggest overall problem with, "Home Fries," was that it felt as if it had been heavily edited prior to its release. When the end credits began to roll, I was surprised, since I was expecting at least another fifiteen minutes. The film felt rushed, and all of the relationship remained open-ended and unsolved. The character development, although I liked what they had of it, was also unsatisfactory. In the case of, "Home Fries," more would have most certainly been more.
©1998 by Dustin Putman