Tuesday, September 30, 2008

House Hunting

House Hunting: 18 minutes
directed by Amy Lippman
based on a short story by Michael Chabon

House Hunting is a fusion of this week’s topics: short stories and star-driven shorts. The comedy is based on a Michael Chabon short story by the same name and stars Paul Rudd (a total Baldwin!) and Zooey Deschanel as a newlywed couple looking for their first home with the assistance of an oddball real estate agent (played by Terry Kinney).

As they inspect the first home, the viewers learn about the two. The husband is less interested in hardwood floors and room dimensions and more into the personalities of the people moving out. He reads the labels of medicine bottles and opens nightstand drawers, at the same time completely embarrassing his wife. She is even more annoyed by his inability to focus and take house hunting seriously, and finds his actions signal a lack of commitment. The agent is a little whacky and isn’t your typical pushy, enthusiastic agent. He moves on to show them another home, where the two notice he is acting irrationally and pocketing random, worthless items from around the house. After realizing the agent is unstable and that they shouldn’t be in this particular home, they argue over what to do. The end result? They have make-up sex in the master bedroom while the agent is downstairs depleting this house’s supplies of TV remotes and paperweights. Afterwards, they hear yelling from the kitchen. It is here that the viewer’s suspicions are realized: the house is the agent’s soon-to-be ex-wife (a tiny but fun role played by Felicity Huffman). After brief consideration, the husband deems the house “perfect.”

Just yesterday we dissected short stories and how they relate to short and feature-length films. Professor Middents suggested that short stories are to features as novels are to television series. I happen to think that analogy works well. Trying to pack in all the components of a novel into a two-hour film is hard, often times resulting in mediocre films and outraged book loyalists. Short stories don’t have to rely on chapters and on-going story, making them a better fit for films. But what about short films? Do they come with too many limits for even a short story?

Here, that is not the case. Lippman does a great job in developing each character and builds a considerable amount of tension and mystery in such a short amount of time. The acting helps with this, too. Even before the dialogue reveals certain problems in their relationship, the viewer already can sense what is wrong with the relationship. The short story translates perfectly into a short film. Whether that is something that is universal, I’m not quite sure.


Akiva said...

This short was just OK to me, but that sex scene with Paul Rudd? More than OK, I'm just saying.

Fran said...

firstly, i love paul rudd and secondly, i think he's what made me watch the whole short. i understand that there isn't much time in a short for character development, but zooey's portrayal of an anal wife (and not in the i slipped and fell for you way) seemed unnatural and i felt as if i could see her trying.

it was enjoyable, but i couldn't see this being turned into a feature film and for me, the true test of a short's greatness is whether not it can be translated into a feature.