Leonard Cohen: Bird on a Wire
Palmer's film is that rare concert doc that isn't for established fans only.
"Home Fries" is the kind of movie where a man is frightened to death by a helicopter, dies sitting bolt upright on a park bench, and one of his killers wants to pose with him. What kind of movie does that make it? I'm not sure. It has elements of sweet romance and elements of macabre humor, and divides its characters between the two--except for a turn by Catherine O'Hara that seems serenely astride both worlds.
The movie stars Drew Barrymore, perky and plucky, as Sally, a drive-thru clerk at the Burger-Matic. We see her in the opening scene, serving a vanilla shake to a middle-aged man who whispers that he has finally told his wife he was having an affair. "Did you tell her about this?" asks Sally, standing up, so the creep can see how pregnant she is. He offers her a ride home and hints at other pastimes. "I don't need a ride home," she snaps. "I need a father for my baby." It is all going to get a lot more complicated. Later that night, the man will be frightened to death. We'll meet two helicopter pilots: Dorian (Luke Wilson) and Angus (Jake Busey). The police will break the news to the man's widow, Mrs. Lever (O'Hara). And then (spoiler warning), we discover that Dorian and Angus are her sons by an earlier marriage, that the dead man was her current husband and that she encouraged them to scare him.
The sons have reason to suspect that their radio conversations in the helicopter were overheard by Sally on her Burger-Matic headphones, so Dorian gets a job at the drive-in to spy on her, and falls in love, little realizing that he is the killer of the father of her unborn child. Are you following this? They begin to fall in love, but as full implications of their romance begin to emerge, Sally tells Dorian, "You can't be the father and the brother at the same time. That's the kind of thing that messes kids up." I know, Dorian would actually be her child's stepfather and half-stepbrother, but Sally is as confused as everyone else.
The movie requires Barrymore and Wilson to play their characters straight most of the time, while Catherine O'Hara mixes sweetness with irony and Jake Busey chews the scenery with those marvelous teeth. Seeing the movie for the first time at the Toronto Film Festival in September, I found parts of it amusing, but doubted the whole. When I saw it again, I was surprised to find I liked it better the second time. I suspect the barrage of twists and revelations was off-putting at first, distracting from the wit in O'Hara's performance and the sweetness in Barrymore's. The first time, you think the movie is about the plot, and the second time you realize it's about the characters.