Friday, October 26, 2012

80s Revisited: Pacific Heights

Pacific Heights (1990)
Directed by John Schlesinger; written by Daniel Pyne; produced by Scott Rudin.

"This is a yuppie conceit; this is not interesting to human beings." -- Desson Howe, Washington Post

I remember when I saw this movie the first time. I was about 14, and my Mom rented it from Blockbuster. I remember thinking that this was a creepy thriller, feeling weirdly kind of grown up watching it. So when it was on cable recently, I thought, well, what the hell, I'm in the mood for something trashy.

Seeing it again, for the first time in a few decades, I realize one thing: I have no idea what the hell is going on in this movie. Even having watched it recently, I couldn't tell you what the hell was going on. I mean, Michael Keaton moves into an apartment, trashes the place, fucks with the yuppie couple he's renting from, and then moves on... for what? For what possible purpose? He just sort of cons his way in, wreaks havoc, all because he... what? Why the hell does anything happen in this movie?

I guess it's just a yuppie real estate nightmare. Matthew Modine and Melanie Griffith play a couple who invest their money in this beautiful San Francisco home, rent out the apartments inside, and one of their tenants turns out to be a total nightmare. I could understand that if the movie were only about that, but it goes to unnecessary pains to show us Michael Keaton's history as a con artist and these other victims and... who cares? If the movie is supposed to be about terrorizing someone's attempt at landlording, why show us that this guy is a scam artist when his motivations are ultimately incomprehensible? Why not just make him truly an enigma and show only what happens to the couple instead of silly horror cliche scenes of Michael Keaton releasing cockroaches into the building? He should be a force, not a character, which would suit him fine since Keaton seems unable to tone down the comic bug-eyed overreactions.

Matthew Modine is serviceable, Melanie Griffith is very likable, but their conflicts with each other and with Keaton just aren't interesting. There are no interesting characters, so the location and the situation have to fill in the gaps and make us care, and they just don't.

It doesn't even try hard enough to be bad. It's just pointless.

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