Weekly Wire
Austin Chronicle Home Fries

By Marc Savlov

NOVEMBER 30, 1998: 

D: Dean Parisot; with Drew Barrymore, Catherine O'Hara, Luke Wilson, Jake Busey, Shelley Duvall, Kim Robillard, Daryl Mitchell, Lanny Flaherty, Chris Ellis. (PG-13, 92 min.)

This locally shot feature debut by Dean Parisot plays like a quasi-sequel to Wes Anderson's minor cult classic Bottle Rocket. Both films star Dallas native Wilson as a quiet Everyman caught up in circumstances (romantic and otherwise) beyond his control, and both films feature quirky, small-scale Texas lifestyles of the poor and bewildered. Home Fries ups the ante, however, by tossing in some outlandish plotting and one large military aircraft, and ends up being the lesser of the two films by virtue of its brazen silliness. Wilson plays Dorian, a young, part-time Texas National Guardsman who, alongside his brother Angus (Busey, over the top and loving it), flies Cobra attack helicopters on the weekends and spends his days, apparently, plotting to drive off his philandering stepfather Henry (Ellis). This at the behest of the brother's controlling mother (O'Hara), a brassy, shrewish witch of a woman whose entreaties to the boys to get rid of old Henry once and for all lead to the man's semi-accidental demise via helicopter terrorism. When that happens, and in an effort to clean up any loose evidentiary ends, Dorian takes a job at the local Burger-Matic, where he checks out pregnant counter girl Sally (Barrymore) to see what she knows, if anything, and eventually falls in love. As complex as that sounds (and Home Fries takes a while to set things up for its audience), things grow even more interesting as the convoluted plot sails along. Wilson is the emotional linchpin in this highly emotional film, and he does the job with a guileless ease. He's the kind of actor that seems destined to slip through the cracks of the studio system until someone realizes he's the guy holding up the entire film. Slyly acting with a bare modicum of attention-grabbing flare, Wilson feels like a young Hoffman minus the mumble. High praise, I know, but rarely have I seen a young actor with such internalized talent. Is it live or is it Luke? Or is it acting? I don't know but whatever it is it works, drawing you in and making you care in the midst of a charitably ramshackle storyline. Barrymore is all cuteness and light, as she often is, though Duvall and especially O'Hara more than make up for it with country laissez-faire (Duvall) and screeching irritants (O'Hara). In the end, Home Fries bites off more than it can chew with its protracted tale of aggrieved families, double-dealing romance, and Jake Busey's teeth (which, frankly, should have received much higher billing). It's small-town humor with big-city scripting, but at least there's Luke Wilson to savor.
2.5 stars

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