INCEST HAS a certain allure to it. If it didn't, it wouldn't be much of a taboo.
Unlike many moral crimes, the allure of incest lies not in its wrongness but in its luxury value. It smacks of decadence. It's an indulgence that normal folk simply cannot afford.
Kings, noblemen, titled aristocrats, the very wealthy: These are the people we like to think are somehow forced to sleep with their family members. Who else but their own would be worthy of such an honor? We don't hand out patents of nobility in America, but we still have our royalty: the Kennedys, the Cabots, the Lodges and any number of blue-blooded families who own land in New England. Few of us know what goes on inside those colonnaded homes, but we'd like to think it's something extraordinary.
"The House of Yes" takes place in just such a home, occupied by just such a family: the Pascals. The time is 1983, but as J.D. Salinger taught us long ago, the children of such families almost always turn out the same way: highly educated, extremely attractive and totally screwed up.
Parker Posey plays Jackie-O, the eldest (by a few seconds) of three siblings. Jackie's real name has been long forgotten. Growing up in a gloomy mansion in Washington, D.C., just across from the Kennedys, Jackie has assumed the identity of the queen of Camelot ever since that fateful day, Nov. 22, 1963. Something else happened to Jackie that day, and now she spends her days taking medication and playing dress-up.
Marty (Josh Hamilton) is Jackie's fraternal twin. He's coming home for Thanksgiving -- to the uncontainable delight of Jackie -- but he's not coming alone.
Freddie Prinze Jr. plays Anthony, the youngest brother. He recently dropped out of college, ostensibly to help keep an eye on Jackie. He's irritatingly acquiescent and impossibly naive. As far as Jackie and Marty are concerned, their lives began without him and have continued accordingly.
Into this not-so-happy home Marty brings his fiancee, Lesly (Tori Spelling). She's unassuming and eager to please, but ends up driving a wedge into the easily unglued Pascal family.
The acting is uniformly good here, and Spelling's turn as Lesly may come as a surprise to many. Lesly's lines are among some of the most important, and she holds her own against the jealous, attention-hungry Jackie-O.
"The House of Yes" is what "indie" films used to look like. Without recourse to grand sets and fancy effects, the filmmakers relied on a smart script, solid acting and resourceful directing. "Metropolitan," released in 1990, seems to have been the last serious indie film, but it was forgotten in the wake of trend-mongering projects such as "Slacker," "Clerks" and "Swingers." Refreshingly, "The House of Yes" has nothing to do with strip malls, comic books or suburbia.
Its subject is family relations -- and rather intimate relations they are. When Jackie finally reveals to Anthony why she and Marty are so close, Anthony's response is more hurt than shocked: "I felt left out."
"Younger brothers always feel left out," says Marty.
"I felt majorly left out," says Anthony.
It's an engaging and funny film, if not an entirely original one. It borrows its milieu from "Six Degrees of Separation," its incest theme from "The Secret History" and its ending from "Mourning Becomes Electra." But it does so with finesse, and the result holds together quite well. Anyone fascinated by the lifestyles of the rich and dissipated will want to get a glimpse at "The House of Yes."
The House of Yes
Rating:*** The secrets of a wealthy family are revealed during a disastrous Thanksgiving dinner. Starring Parker Posey, Tori Spelling and Freddie Prinze Jr. Based on the play by Wendy MacLeod. Directed by Mark Wa ters. Rated R, opening today in area movie theaters.