House of Yes

Director: Mark Waters
Screenwriters: Mark Waters

Institute History

  • 1997 Sundance Film Festival


The family’s antics in The House of Yes are alternately outrageous and disturbing, but at all times mesmerizing. A fiercely original script is the root of this black comedy, written and directed by Mark Waters from a play by Wendy MacLeod, exploring how tragedy affects the various members of a family.

The film introduces us to the affluent Pascal family as they prepare for this year’s formal Thanksgiving dinner. There is a turkey in the oven, or so we are led to believe, and everyone is preparing in a “special” way for Marty, the absent member of the brood. He returns with his new fiancée Lesley, weathering a storm to get back to the bosom of his family. Lesley, a simple girl, knows little about the impending in-laws, only that they have a few quirks. Shortly into the evening (sometime after the electricity goes out), she learns that the family is severely dysfuntional, and that may not be the worst of it.

Waters takes the family dynamic and pushes it into a hysterical, emotional free fall. He lets the action play out like the finale of an insane symphony while controlling the underlying fever pitch with just the right amount of restraint. The mother-daughter relationship alone is riveting. Geneviève Bujold plays mother with the sadness of a queen who has lost her Camelot, and Parker Posey as Jackie-O turns in the performance of a lifetime in a part that seems tailor-made for her. In this richly stylized film,Water’s keeps you distanced long enough to feel safe with this clan, then snaps you back with the realization you just may have more in common with them than you think. This double whammy makes The House of Yes a strangely moving film.

— John Cooper

Screening Details

Sundance Film Festival Awards

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