Better Housekeeping (review)

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If you don’t get your fill of po’ white trash throwing everything from insults to chairs at one another on Jerry Springer, then this deliciously mean-spirited and wryly observant flick is just for you. Writer/director Frank Novak’s ready-for-reality-TV flick — the unlikely darling of Cannes and the very likely darling Slamdance — was called Good Housekeeping until just a few days before its limited release in NYC, when the fine people at Hearst Magazines demand it be changed, lest anyone confuse the cookies-and-crafting periodical with the divorcing-rednecks satire. Not bloody likely. Don (Bob Jay Mills) and Donatella (Petra Westen) are just barely tolerating each other’s presence in their tiny — and, I must say, badly decorated — house while they wait for their court date, and they have no compunctions about putting their young son smack in the middle of their battles, which frequently involve Don’s paralegal friend offering questionable legal advice and Donatella’s new lesbian lover, offering questionable moral support. Also involved are a stoner brother, a taco-joint Dumpster, a beloved classic automobile, a prized Beanie Baby, and a grenade launcher, but I can say no more. The crescendo Housekeeping reaches is hilarious, and if the movie has little to offer but mockery of a culture that’s already quite beyond mockery… well, bring me a beer and come and watch it with me anyway.

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