17 January 2009

Steve Martin in "HouseSitter"

Steve Martin as Newton Davis
Roy Cooper as Winston Moseby
Peter MacNicol as Marty

The architect in a comedy is almost always the straight man. The definition of a straight man that comes from the wikipedia entry,

"A double act, also known as a comedy duo, is a comic device in which humor is derived from the uneven relationship between two partners, usually of the same gender, age, ethnic origin, and profession, but drastically different personalities. Often one of them, the straight man, feed or stooge is portrayed as reasonable and serious, and the other one, the funny man or comic is portrayed as funny, unintelligent or unorthodox."

Time in time again in funny movies, the architect takes this role. Matt Dillon was the straight man to Owen Wilson's funny man in You, Me & Dupree. Wilbur (an architect) was the straight man to Mr. Ed's funny horse. Although not usually the straight man (think Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, The Jerk, The Absent Minded Waiter) in HouseSitter, Steve Martin takes on Goldie Hawn, who as always is playing a free-spirited, fun loving, mischief making sexpot.

Inspired by Corbusier. Notice the piloti?
And Sears aluminum siding?

So, Newton builds the girl of his dreams, his high school sweetheart, a house and suprises her with it while proposing to her. She dumps him, he hops in bed with Goldie, has a one night stand, and then she finds a picture of the house on a napkin sketch that he did and moves in. Hilarity ensues.

Like Newton Davis, sketching on napkins is my preferred method of meeting strange women in bars.

When actors play against type, they usually include a scene where the actor will profess his believes, point of views or whatnot to show their character. Steve Martin does this early in the movie at the opening of a new skyscraper his firm designed. As Newton, he's chatting with his co-worker Marty (played by the guy who was the creepy art restorer from Ghostbusters II) and makes his views on the new building known.

Newton: "I still think its a boring building no matter how you look at it."
Marty: "The absolute best thing about this building in two words: billable hours."
Newton: "But did you have fun making it?"

The Jerk, AIA, is not a fan

Deep, Newton. Deep.
But it doesn't stop there. Soon they run into the head of the office, Winston Moseby. Marty is a seedy little guy who has no problem kissing ass. Newton on the other hand...

Marty: "Well, Mr. Moseby, congratulations on another beautiful job."
Winston: "Thank you Marty. I think everyone has a right to feel proud."
Marty: "Absolutely. You know, I don't know if its the champagne talking, but I want to say your leadership on this has been an inspiration to all of us on the project and... and I hope I haven't embarrasted you."
Winston: "Not at all"
Marty: "I dont know if you know Davis here from the firm..."
Newton and Winston Shake hands.
Newton: "The building...! Huh.... Wow! Its....(thinking)....there!"
Winston: "Yes?"
Newton: "You know that Boston Bank building you designed years ago? I have stood on the sidewalk for hours absorbing that structure. It still suprises me."
Winston: "Thank you Davis"
Newton: "Don't you think we should be going for that kind of originality? Instead of these same designs over and over... this... this cookie cutter architecture? Don't you feel sometimes like were just going through the motions?"
Winston: "We are the largest architecture firm in New England. Evidently some people like what we do (starts to walk away)."

Apparently for all his talk, Newton and Marty aren't that good of architects either. Perhaps its an early phase of design, but some of the one line zingers that are said between plot advancing conversations about women problems are just too good...

"The only entrance you have here is through the air conditioning duct."
"You have people exiting into a wall here."

Perhaps one of the lines that most stands out in the film isn't Newton proclaiming his thoughts and theories on the built environment, but on Goldie stating her thoughts on Newton. Perhaps its a fate Newton doesn't want to be condemned to, something that as a student he feared would happen to him. When they first get back to Goldie's apartment before said one night stand...

Goldie: "Well, this is my place."
Newton: "Cozy. I like what you did with the drape...thing."
Goldie: "Well, I'm no architect."
Newton: "Its nice. I like how you used...the negative...space."
Goldie: "I like you. You're just so.... average."

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