I had the recent privilege of eating lunch next to Goldie Hawn’s table, at an upscale restaurant by the beach in Los Angeles. Dressed in all black and wearing designer sunglasses, she had a huge smile plastered across her face and there was no mistaking who she was. What was remarkable is how she looked just like she did on the silver screen years ago. I instantly harkened back to some of her 1980’s classics, like Protocol and Wildcats. But then I remembered Overboard and how she starred in it with her long-term beau Kurt Russell.
Overboard is the story of a wealthy heiress, Joanna Stayton (Goldie Hawn), who is an outright bitch. She travels the globe on her yacht with her infantile husband, Grant Stayton III (Edward Hermann). While docked in Elk Cove, Oregon, Joanna hires a carpenter named Dean Proffitt (Kurt Russell) to build her a closet to display all of her shoes. When he uses oak instead of cedar she refuses to pay him and Dean leaves unpaid and angry. Later that evening, Joanna accidentally falls off her yacht into the freezing waters of the North Pacific. She’s picked up by a fisherman, but has amnesia and doesn’t remember who she is. When Dean sees her on the news, he comes up with a plan to pretend that she is his wife. He figures she can be his personal slave and pay off the debt he feels she owes him. Although Joanna doesn’t feel at home in her new life as Dean’s wife, Annie, and mother to his four rambunctious misbehaved boys, she eventually slips into the routine of things and even falls in love with Dean somewhere along the way.
Goldie Hawn. Goldie Hawn. Goldie Hawn. There’s a reason Ms. Hawn successfully moved from Laugh-In skits to starring in her own films. Her comedic timing and ability to deliver lines with such seriousness, even though what she is often saying is ridiculous is quite uncanny. One also gets the impression from watching her that she most likely had a lot of fun playing the uptight wealthy ice queen Joanna Stayton. Where some actresses may have chosen to phone in their performance, she fully commits, making the character absurdly memorable. No one else could deliver the line, “Caviar should be round, and hard, and of adequate size, and should burst in your mouth at precisely the right moment.”
There is also a moment in the beginning of the film, where I felt like I was watching Goldie Hawn channeling Kate Hudson. Which is strange because when I’ve seen Kate Hudson, I always felt that she was attempting to channel Goldie Hawn, but ultimately unable to pull it off successfully. Someone please resurrect Dr. Timothy Leary, Ph.D. I think I’m tripping out!
If Goldie Hawn deserves an award for best comedic actress, then Katherine Helmond deserves one for best supporting comedic actress. Helmond plays Joanna Stayton’s affluent mother, Edith Mintz. Most people will recognize Helmond from her years playing sex fiend Mona, on Who’s the Boss? In Overboard she caters to her spoiled daughter and encourages Joanna’s bratty behavior. She is only in a few scenes in this film, but she is the only actor who effectually steals the limelight from Goldie Hawn.
Overboard was directed by Gary Marshall, whose career speaks for itself. That is right before he directed his last two films, Valentine’s Day and New Year’s Eve. I’ve already used my meditation classes to pray that Marshall leaves Thanksgiving alone. But I want to take a moment to recognize the screenwriter for a change. Leslie Dixon’s script is flawless. Sure it has a few montage sequences, elements of convenience, and schmaltzy moments, but it should serve as the number one precedent for the perfect situational romantic comedy screenplay. Dixon creates conflict between two attractive characters, who both have flaws. She then sets up a situation, where one character is in need of help, that in turn places the other character out of their element. She also makes sure that both characters face mounting obstacles leading them to an all is lost moment, but in the end the two characters’ love for one another perseveres. It is a perfect formula for successful storytelling.
I know. How could I give Overboard a second beer? If it were a Disney animated film, I wouldn’t. But it’s not. So tough shit. Like many films, there are a couple gaping holes in the initial premise and set-up of the story. When Dean comes to the hospital, to get Joanna, the only proof he gives the doctors, that the woman with amnesia is his wife Annie, is that she has a small birthmark on her left butt-cheek. How would these trained doctors not have asked him to provide something a little more concrete? Like, say a driver’s license, social security card, marriage certificate, or gee, a freaking photo. Then when they get home, each one of Dean’s four sons is on board with the lie, and not once do they ever slip up. I never realized that small children are so dependable for covert operations. As a viewer, we must suspend belief and go along for the ride. Otherwise, there’d be no movie and then your mommy would have made you go outside and play. Aren’t you so glad that didn’t happen?
My only other issue with this film is that the opening credits look like something that is reserved for B slasher movies. I guess someone on the editing team for Overboard was really trying to get laid and promised a favor to an aspiring film editor. This was before the Craigslist’s casual encounters section existed. But did it have to be with the production assistant from Return to Horror High?
If you don’t feel like you just ingested a Big Gulp of Serotonin by the time the closing credits roll on Overboard, then you’re just an insufferable prick. Plus, I don’t think there’s any other film where you can see Goldie Hawn rock a thong.
Take a Drink: every time someone says, “Remember.”
Take a Drink: every time Dean is wearing a tank top.
Do a Shot: every time you see Goldie Hawn’s ass.
Shotgun a Beer: when you finish sitting through the montage of Joanna/Annie doing her chores.