Good Housekeeping

on November 20, 2002 by Jon A. Walz
   Anyone who's ever wondered what a family spawned from the lazy, impoverished, white-trash characters in Richard Linklater's classic "Slackers" would look like when all grown up and married can find the repellant answer in Frank Novak's "Good Housekeeping."

   Breakups are just not what they used to be in the desperate slums of Los Angeles, happy home of the unemployed Don (Bob Mills) and fork-lift operator Donatella (Petra Westen). Still living together despite a pending divorce, the couple spends their time doing little but volleying verbal grenades at one another until the already unhinged Bob is finally pushed overboard. Late one night while Donatella is out exercising her new lesbian lifestyle with lover Marion (Tacey Adams), Bob and his unemployed buddies build a wall across the house, turning his side into a 24-hour party-pit for his loser friends. Meanwhile, their son is shuttled between the two warring parties through a small hole in the new drywall. Attempts at dark comedy ensue.

   With tension between the two approaching the red zone, the cops begin responding to almost hourly complaints by and about the couple and their ascendingly outrageous behavior.

   Wearing its limited budget on its sleeve, "Good Housekeeping" looks and feels like long episode of a television police reality show. The filmmakers took a stab at a compelling premise here--a downscale "War of the Roses"--and the acting as well as the rough, raw, hand-held visual look of the film are all right on. Unfortunately, as is the failure of many small films, "Good Housekeeping" lacks any palpable sense of story. The actors improvise and scream their way around this movie directionless, lacking any of the rollicking dark humor so necessary to make this kind of idea work on screen.    Starring Bob Mills, Petra Wilson and Tacey Adams. Directed and written by Frank Novak. Produced by Mark Mathis.A Shooting Gallery release. Comedy. Not yet rated. Running time: 93 min.

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