Overboard
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Overboard

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We may like to delude ourselves that we live in an egalitarian society free from the ancient constraints of a caste system. While this is a nice, comforting ideal it is far from an accurate depiction of the culture that surrounds us. There is a broad discrepancy in classes here in the United States that is frequently as staunchly enforced as the caste systems found in other countries throughout time. The rich are admired by the middle class and poor, even secretly hated for their wealth, privilege and power. While there is some degree of movement between these well defined economic strata must are relegated to live their entire lives in the socio-economic class they were born into. Literature and subsequently movies have always latched on to this concept with stories presenting as twofold impetus; the high and mighty laid low and the sweet revenge of the working man. From stories like ‘The Prince and the Pauper’ to movies like ‘Trading Places’ the idea of the rich and poor trading places is an ever popular theme. One variation was released in 1987, ‘Overboard’ featuring a self center, spoiled rich woman falling off her luxury boat and her life of wealth to become a working poor housewife. While the elevation of a poor person to riches is not central to the story here the revenge motivation is strongly manifested presented in a humorous format, the reason for this older film to take center stage in this consideration is the film just became part of the growing list of older films produced by MGM/UA being remastered and released in high definition. This has been a fantastic opportunity for film buffs to argument their collections with Blu-ray copies of some of their favorite films. Each monthly wave of the studio driven incentive brings out movies ranging from certifiable classics to guilty pleasures that are certain to make for an enjoyable afternoon of viewing. ‘Overboard’ is noteworthy for casting long time couple of Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn in a romantic comedy featuring a wry little twist of social retribution. While not one of the best representations of the genre it remains a strongly entertaining movie that is sure to illicit a number of laughs.

Joanna Stayton (Goldie Hawn) was boon with the proverbial silver spoon, an heiress who never had to work one moment in her life. Surrounded by money and the privilege it provides Joanna has never had to wait any reasonable time between desire and fulfillment throughout her life. This pampered lifestyle instilled in Joanna a disregard for others not so much out of malice but borne from a deeply instilled ignorance of the plight or needs of others. In any romantic comedy there is always one defining moment that sets the story in motion. For Joanna this instance came about during a routine jaunt on the family yacht. Joanna was cruising on the boat she owns with her husband Grant Stayton III (Edward Herrmann). A roman numeral after a haughty sounding name is movie shorthand denoting rich, snooty and emotionally detached. When the yacht brakes down in the hick community of Elk Cove, Oregon, Joanne decides to hire a local handyman, Dean Proffitt (Kurt Russell) to fix a closet while the craft was undergoing mechanical repair. After the job was completed Joanne takes issue with the selection of wood used and refuses to pay him. An argument erupts resulting in Joanne pushing Dean and the tools required for him to earn a living off the side of the craft. Later that evening Devine retribution intervenes with Joanna slipping overboard while trying to retrieve her wedding ring. In a fashion particular to the genre she develops amnesia and is rescued by a garbage scow. When Grant is summoned to the hospital he sees this as a golden opportunity to be rid of his shrew of a wife without all that messy slipping assets inherent in divorce and he disavows any connection to her. This frees him to use the boat for much better purposes such as parties with willing women half his age. Meanwhile Dean learns of the situation and decides to claim Joanna as his wife and mother of his four high spirited sons. He is a widower and without his tool box is hard pressed to support his brood so this plan may seem to be self serving but he rationalizes how he deserves a chance to get even with the overly demanding spoiled brat of a woman. He tells Joanna her name is Annie and puts her to work as housewife and mother of four. At first old habits die hard and the demanding aspects of Joanna’s personality surface but soon a new personality of Annie becomes dominant as she begins to fall in love with Dean and his kids. The requisite second act disruption occurs when Joanna’s mother (Katherine Helmond) forces Dean to return to Oregon to retrieve Joanna. By this time though she has accepted being Annie and found a loving place in that family.

Not only does this story utilize archetypes established in class disruption tales but it liberally borrows from another literary classic, ‘Taming of the Shrew’. It may seem sexiest now but a popular theme throughout literature is changing an overly strong willed woman and forcing her to acknowledge and ultimately submit to male authority inevitably making her life happier. This politically incorrect concept is justified by noted comic filmmaker Garry Marshall through a well established manipulation of the circumstances. First of all Joanna is shown to be miserable in her wealthy life; unfilled and lashing out at the lower class although secretly envious of their innate happiness. Second her husband Grant is shown to be a real piece of work; ready to disown her to further his own selfish, hedonistic desires at the first opportunity. Then there is Dean, a hard working man holding down several jobs just to make ends meet. Being tossed overboard by Joanna not only helped define her as a shrew but robbed him of much needed income and the tools of his trade. The fact that Joanna responded so readily to the identity of Annie demonstrates there was good within Joanna and once she had a proper relationship with a strong man her life would be much better. Social commentary aside this film is fun largely due to the easy going and natural chemistry of real life couple Hawn and Russell. Both are exceptionally accomplished actors well versed in the intricacies of the Rom-Com able to give memorable performances here.

Posted 07/24/11

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