by Laura Kyle
In the most recent movie musical to hit theaters (Chris Columbus' Rent), Anthony Rapp played a broke documentarian who sung along with his vocally talented HIV positive pals, vowing never to pay rent again. In Open House, he's still against the concept of rent, except for a totally different reason. He's trying to sell a house to a slew of potential home*buy*ers.Rapp, as realtor Barry, has a comical enthusiasm, over-praising everything from the sink's drain to the window pane. Among his 'open house' attendees are a young couple who immediately precede to have sex in the master bedroom, a British gent, a robber dodging the police and assuming the identity of a doctor looking for a bachelor's pad, and the two cops (engaged in an adulterous affair) on his tail who pretend to be interested in purchasing the casa too. There's also another couple, the boyfriend of which has a history with the girlfriend of the first couple.
And did I mention ... Open House is a musical?
With a clever, jazzy instrumental score strolling through the film, the cast frequently bursts into musical numbers. Of course this just cements writer/director Dan Mirvish's flick as probably the most amusing thing I've seen in a long time. While every melody is generic and derivative, the way the various musical themes play into the plot is ultra-creative and well, FUNNY. The lyrics are sharp and Rapp's given some especially fun tongue-twisting songs to perform as the strangely giddy realtor.
Mirvish is clearly joshing with his audience in his decision to inject Open House with amateur singing and dancing (there aren't fancy studio recordings and the choreography's not meant to be impressive). But what a risk he took! I'd bargain that Open House would be adequately hilarious without music. The fact that Mirvish chose to take another, super cumbersome step (taking on the task of songwriter, etc) in order to make his indie just a little more eccentric, says a lot about the guy's confidence as a filmmaker.
Open House is no meager indie -- James Duval (the bunnie in Donnie Darko!) and Kellie Martin star. Jenna Leigh Green, another recognizable actress, is present too. But the cast, as a whole, from the folks given one line to the more prominent players, is absolutely awesome. Almost all sport lengthy resumes and are pleasantly familiar. My favorite performance, hands down, though, is Jerry Doyle as the robber, who almost convinces himself that he indeed, DOES want to buy a house afterall.
Mirvish's line-up, from top to bottom, is just perfect; every actor plays their odd characters and performs their songs with a laughable sincerity. Martin's Debbie is feisty, stringing along her beau Joel (Duval), and their mission to find a house that will survive their exhaustive check-list of must-haves, while simultaneously jacking items from the various cribs they check out, provides a nice narrative focus for the audience, who otherwise might feel too overwhelmed by the generous amount of zany subplots. (And in this case, "zany" is a compliment.)
The movie's a satire as well, however droll, about the strange little world that real estate agents operate in and their clients' curious intrigue with the prospect of buying a house. Especially funny are the contrasts between the different open houses; Barry clings onto guests as any annoying salesman would do, while another agent (Sally Kellerman) is openly reluctant to giving guests tours. (One can't help but recall Annette Bening's role in American Beauty.) Every real-life realtor should get as much of a kick out of this as every tech-worker stuck in a cubicle continues to get out of Office Space.
Open House is simply a blast -- goofy, well-acted, whimsical, remarkably creative and endlessly funny.Indeed, it's "fantabulous" -- the adjective Barry uses to describe the house he's marketing -- a refreshing romp that's as generous with its wacky antics as it is with intelligent humor.
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originally posted: 12/18/05 19:31:32