By Susan Ellis
JUNE 22, 1998:
Six Days, Seven Nights
Any concern that Anne Heche, given her personal life, could pull off the lead opposite Harrison Ford in the romantic comedy Six Days, Seven Nights soon dissipates. Its not the logical intrusion that gay actors play straight all the time and vice versa. Instead, our wonder is turned to the fact that after several days stranded on a deserted tropical island, the Heche character retains her mascara, without a smudge or flake. Now thats something.
Heche plays Robin, an editor for a New York magazine called Dazzle, which professes to hold the key to such business as how to drive men wild. Apparently, some of that info has sunk in with Robin because her boyfriend, Frank (David Schwimmer), turns up with two tickets for a tropical getaway. To get to their destination, the couple hires the charter services of a battered pilot named Quinn (Ford) and his battered four-seater plane.
All goes well on the island. Frank proposes and Robin says yes, and they happily drink mai tais on the beach. Their little slice of paradise is interrupted, however, when Robins boss calls and demands that she oversee a photo shoot the next day on nearby Tahiti. To get there, Robin turns to Quinn, who must tear himself away from a luscious native woman named Angelica (Jacqueline Obradors).
En route to Tahiti, Quinn and Robin hit a bad storm. Lightning strikes, and the plane crashes on an uncharted island. Once there, as Frank and Angelica man a search party and comfort each other, Robin and Quinn turn to their survival instincts. Initially, Robin expects Quinn to save them by calling forth his guyness. He does his part by nabbing a peacock for dinner and finding them fresh water. Robin proves to be no slacker either. Though shes not exactly making radios out of coconuts, she does embark on acts that could fill her magazine for months: How To Pack For a Plane Crash, A Great Haircut for Trying Times, and Pirates, Friend or Foe? to name but a few.
Yes, pirates figure in there somewhere. Theres also a snake up Robins pants and some euphemistic talk regarding Quinns plane (Im not sure about your equipment, says Robin). This would all be pretty much unbearable if it werent for Heche and Ford. Ford makes a go of Michael Brownings script by taking his trademark beleaguered what-now? approach, and Heche, as the pushy New Yorker, manages to keep up. As for their chemistry, well, theres nothing like battling pirates to make even the most mismatched pair see the common ground. On the downside, the filmmakers seem to be using wardrobe to boost Heches sex appeal to an obnoxious point. Make that points, since Heches chest is practically a character in the film.
Whit Stillmans The Last Days of Disco is the third film in the writer/directors trilogy, fitting somewhere between Metropolitan and Barcelona. The setting is the very early 80s, just as disco is making its last gasps and a clique of newly minted professionals is feeling its way through relationships and making the rounds at an exclusive dance club.
Alice (Chloe Sevigny) and Charlotte (Kate Beckinsale) are roommates and poorly paid workers at a publishing house. Charlotte, haughty and with a little bit too much carnal knowledge, declares this a new era and proceeds to give the more stable and pure Alice advice that leads to get her getting dumped. Among their paramours are Harvard boys Des (Chris Eigeman), a snearing nightclub worker; Josh (Matt Keeslar), a manic-depressive assistant district attorney, who can wax poetic about The Lady and the Tramp; and Jimmy (Mackenzie Astin), an ad man scorned because he is an ad man.
As a character says toward the end of the movie, To thine own self be true, Stillman is true to a pattern he established in the first two films. The Last Days of Disco plays as if it could end at any time or go on forever (and sometimes it feels like it might). What happens is not as important as the characters who are drawn and what they say. There are the good guys and the bad guys. Sevigny is beguiling as the former, and as the latter, the hilarious Eigeman has made being a creep an art form in this, his third appearance in the trilogy. In this turn, he dumps women and garners sympathy from them at the same time by telling them hes gay. He says, Wednesday was gay day, and explains that his sexuality occurred to him while watching Mutual of Omahas Wild Kingdom.
Even with its hopeful ending, theres a bleak tinge to The Last Days of Disco. Charlottes right that this is a new era, but its not the one she thought it to be, and its one that the characters will enter a little bruised. But its a Stillman-style cynicism thats very funny a series of near one-liners where what is assumed is almost always true.
As the movie opens, we learn that neither Mitch nor Sam can hold a job or a girlfriend. Sam lives with his dad. Mitch has just been kicked out of his girlfriends apartment and life. Neither has any type of future plan. This changes rapidly, however, when Sams dirty-old-man father, played well by Jack Warden, has a heart attack. Because he is low-priority on the heart transplant list, and his doctor, Dr. Farthing, played by Chevy Chase, is a compulsive gambler, Mitch and Sam can only score a heart for Pops by raising $50,000, a debt Farthing owes to a bookmaker.
It is this quest that drives Mitch and Sam to their one natural talent creative revenge. They experiment with various jobs, and learn that they are not the only ones consistently stepped upon. They are, however, the only ones with nothing to lose.
One of the weaker parts of the film is the budding romance between Mitch and his neighbor, Kathy, played by Traylor Howard. It is unnecessary and underdeveloped. We see them together for less than 15 minutes total, and they go from saying hello to Kathy feeling betrayed by his actions. I expected her to scream, I trusted you! and run into an alleyway, hand across her brow.
One great feature of the film is the work of the costume designer, Beth Pasternak, who recently worked on the acclaimed indie film The Sweet Hereafter. Every scene is in vibrant, mostly primary colors, right down to the pillows on the couch. Mitch and Sam always wear cobalt blue, fire-engine red, or canary yellow. Kathy sports magenta and lilac. The colors help maintain the frantic atmosphere of the movie.
If anyone hasnt noticed, Saturday Night Live exes tend to appear in one anothers films. Dirty Work includes cameos by Chevy Chase, Chris Farley, and Adam Sandler. All contribute to the script, which at times needs a little help. Obviously, the movie is set up to be a risque comedy, which it is not. Dirty Work is a formula: SNL comics + average plot + toilet humor (literally, theres a joke involving a toilet). It is not a bad representation of this formula. In fact, there are some scenes which make me laugh thinking about them now, but I can count them on one hand, and thats probably not good.
Norm Macdonald is what he is. Hes a comedian, but he pulls off his role in his own overly deliberate and funny way. Artie Lange is a much more rounded actor, having had supporting roles in Jerry Maguire, Fathers Day, and Jungle Fever. Long story short: If you liked Happy Gilmore, Black Sheep, or Tommy Boy, youll probably enjoy this movie.
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