The Seasoned Ticket #190

Robert Horton is a Scarecrow board member and a longtime film critic. He will be contributing a series of “critic’s notes” to the Scarecrow blog—a chance to highlight worthy films playing locally and connecting them to the riches of Scarecrow’s collection.

Anne Heche died, an actress whose career should have been marked by bigger parts and more possibilities. She deserves appreciation for a variety of strong roles, including Donald Cammell’s badly-cut Wild Side, Nicole Holofcener’s Walking and Talking, Joseph Ruben’s tense Return to Paradise, of course Jonathan Glazer’s Birth, and Miguel Arteta’s raucous Cedar Rapids, in which she is very touching. Her impressive work in the 90s led to her big shot, opposite Harrison Ford in a multiplex screwball comedy, Six Days, Seven Nights. The film’s release was overshadowed by her relationship with Ellen DeGeneres, an expression of just how dumb our culture had gotten, and the trajectory of her career was altered.

The movie itself is a muddle, but not because of Heche, who proves herself entirely worthy of the tradition of Carole Lombard and Irene Dunne. My review, published at Film.com in 1998, is below (I made a point of not referring to the tabloid stuff, because why should we care?), with this reminder that Heche’s work can be copiously sampled via your physical-media friends at Scarecrow Video.

Six Days, Seven Nights

Pirates! They’re in Six Days, Seven Nights, all right. Oh, the movie tries to make a self-conscious kind of joke out of it, like isn’t it ridiculous that there would be pirates in a movie in this day and age, but still: At some point some people sat around a table and decided that Michael Browning’s script needed beefing up, needed an all-important conflict in its second act, and somebody said: “Pirates.” So they did it, and here they are, and something goes out of the movie right then and there. 

Here’s how we got there. Anne Heche plays a high-powered New York magazine editor—is there any other job description for women in the movies these days?—and David Schwimmer plays her boyfriend. They take off for a week at a plush resort on a tropical island, but she gets called out to fly briefly to Tahiti and oversee a magazine photo shoot. En route, she and the pilot (Harrison Ford) crash-land on an uninhabited island. She’s sarcastic and bossy; he’s rough and manly. They are meant for each other. Back at the resort, Schwimmer and Ford’s sometime bedmate (Jacqueline Obradors) team up to lead the search party, although in the evenings they drink a lot of mai tais and do a bit of hands-on commiserating. 

The island (it was shot on Kauai) has scenic coves, peacocks, and . . . pirates! The movie may be slick, glossy nonsense, but Harrison Ford is Harrison Ford and Anne Heche is as sharp and alert as any movie actress her age. It’s pleasant, in a tropical resort kind of way, to sit back and watch them spark, even if there’s nothing here we haven’t seen ten million times before. Thankfully, director Ivan Reitman soft-pedals the mismatched-lovers crap, and just lets the actors play off each other for long stretches. 

Then—well, yo ho ho and bottle of rum, matey. The awesome New Zealand actor Temuera Morrison (from Once Were Warriors) pops up with his band of cutthroats, and suddenly there’s gunplay and chasing and Ford and Heche jumping off a cliff. 

Those pirates are like an admission that the island action wasn’t exciting enough. But that’s not necessarily true: Erotic attraction is always interesting, and as the castaways begin to dig each other they have to wrestle with an ethical dilemma. Ford’s character is more or less free and easy, but Heche has just been engaged, and fidelity becomes a delicate issue. There’s some material there, but instead the twosome settle on a chaste solution, and Heche keeps asking daddy Ford to be her “confident captain,” available for platonic snuggling. Okay, fine—you might as well bring in the pirates at that point. 

 

August 19, 2022

Robert Horton is a member of the National Society of Film Critics.

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