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Nosey Parker

Reviewed By Chris Parry
Posted 03/18/03 12:39:15

"The great American hometown love letter."
5 stars (Awesome)

Plenty of movies aspire to bring you back to where you were born and show you what you’re missing, but seldom have has a film so found itself perfectly in tune with what makes rural Americana special as this homespun vision of love, friendship and family. Nosey Parker is the kind of film that you can take your grandmother to and come out of it with a better relationship with her. It’s the kind of film that you could watch seventeen times and never get bored of. It’s the kind of film that could only be made by a man who lists his address as “Landgoes Farm, Turnbridge Vermont.” While we’re all in LA or New York trying to make the next great action hero blockbuster, Writer/Director/Editor/Producer John O’Brien (Man With a Plan) has quietly assembled a quilt of varying emotions that promises to bring at least one tear to the eye of anyone who sits down before it. Take it from a jaded bastard; if you don’t come out of this film applauding and hoping that co-lead Natalie Picoe is on the verge of something great in her acting career, you need therapy – plain and simple.

Happily married and ultra-successful yppies Natalie (Picoe) and Richard (Richard Snee) decide to move from their Connecticut home to a dream-house in the hills of Vermont. Having purchased their million-dollar home and spent additional cash making it just right for themselves, they’re somewhat startled to open the door one day to ‘the listers’ – a group of elderly locals who visit homes in the area to assess the land tax rate that the owner will be charged in the coming year.

See, the listers aren’t quite all there. They’re perhaps a little senile, getting on a bit in years and very much taking their only chance to stickybeak into every corner of the big home. One of them in particular, old George (George Lyford) goes on a wander and checks out everything from dollhouses to faucets, medicine collections and the view from the loft. This engagement of the new folks and the old sets the scene for the rest of the film; idle gossip tspreads amongst the locals as their distrust of anything new threatens to make the new kids in town pariahs, while our yuppie heroes are finding the surrounds not quite as much fun as they’d hoped.

But while Nosey Parker could have become (and I’d suggest originally was) a story about the mutual distrust between locals and outsiders, the odd relationship that slowly grows between old crusty country boy George and young suburban Natalie overruns everything else and takes this film to places few others have gone before. O’Brien barely scripted this film, instead letting his actors (many of which had never acted before) just go out and be themselves, and that’s where the real beauty of Nosey Parker comes from. Filled with country characters that you seldom speak to unless they're selling apples on the Interstate, the personality of these folks shines through in ways that could not be performed by an actor. When George looks at Natalie, he’s not trying to look at her like he loves her, you can see that George really does. He’s not an actor lying to you, he's just an old guy who could have spent his failing years in a chair and instead is having the chance of a lifetime – the chance to make a movie and make friends with a few young people and do something different.

On the other hand, Natalie Picoe could not possibly exude any more personality than she does here, and once again you’d have to say that’s because she’s not acting, she’s simply talking on film to an old guy that she really feels affection for. I'm not talking ‘love’ love here, the relationship isn’t sexual at all. Rather, it’s the love that comes when an old man who likes to chat meets a young woman who likes to listen.

The two of them light up the screen; Picoe looking every bit as striking as Julia Roberts on her best day, yet maintaining a mature maternal presence that makes you look beyond her external beauty to the person beneath. When she smiles, you’d swear an extra filter had to be put on the camera to keep the glare down. George at the same time smiles a far more mischievous smile, as he rattles of corny jokes and finds ways to make one word replace eighteen.

I could go on and on about what makes this film special and I’d never cover all the ground that’s worth covering. Suffice it to say that nobody who gets up in the morning and rushes to work, only to rush home to bed and repeat the process next day should miss this film. You’ll not only love it, you’ll call your dad afterwards and tell him things he hasn’t heard in a while.

Crusty old lead George Lyford isn't around anymore, having left this mortal coil between finishing the film and it being ready to watch. That knowledge only adds to the emotion on screen, and George Lyford will forever be remembered by people who see this movie, for all the best reasons a person could be remembered.

Nosey Parker is the best of Americana in a one and a half hour feature film experience that brings the fast-paced of us back to see what we’ve been missing all these years, and tells the slow-paced ones amongst us that maybe if you take the effort there’s a little you can learn from the city folk. In short, like It’s A Wonderful Life, this is a film to own, adore and watch with your family every holiday season. I plan to do just that.

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