|Indeed, even her two young
nieces are divided. One finds her "funny," and
the other loves her. Eventually the two sisters will take separate
paths in life because they differ about Sylvie. At first, when
they are younger, she simply represents reality to them. As they
grow older and begin to attend high school, however, one of the
girls wants to be "popular" and resents having a weird
aunt at home, while the other girl draws herself into Sylvie's
The townspeople are not evil, merely conventional
and "concerned." Parties
of church ladies visit to see if they can "help." The
sheriff eventually gets involved. But "Housekeeping" is
not a realistic movie, not one of those disease-of-the-week docudramas
with a tidy solution. It is funnier, more offbeat, and too enchanting
to ever qualify on those terms.
Forsyth, the writer and director, has made
all of his previous films in Scotland (they make a list of whimsical,
completely original comedies: "Gregory's
and Joy," "That Sinking Feeling"). For his first
North American production, he began with a novel by Marilynne Robinson
that embodies some of his own notions, such as that certain people
grow so amused by their own conceits that they cannot be bothered
to pay lip service to yours.
In Lahti, he has found the right actress to embody this idea.
Although she has been excellent in a number
of realisic roles (she was Gary Gilmore's sister in "The Executioner's Song" and
Goldie Hawn's best friend in "Swing
Shift"), there is something resolutely private about her,
a sort of secret smile that is just right for Sylvie. The role
requires her to find a delicate line; she must not seem too mad
or willful, or the whole charm of the story will be lost. And although
there are times when she seems to be indifferent to her nieces,
she never seems not to love them.