June 12, 1998
Ivan Reitman’s SIX DAYS SEVEN NIGHTS is a kind of low concept romance/adventure that I don’t think you’d see today, and didn’t generally see twenty years ago. It’s basically just a woman and a man who don’t initially like each other getting trapped on an island together, and then starting to like each other after a bit of survival shenanigans.
There’s more romantic-comedy trappings than adventure ones. Robin Monroe (Anne Heche, PSYCHO) is a hard working assistant editor for the fashion magazine Dazzle who’s in a long term relationship with Frank (David Schwimmer, WOLF). He’s a sweet but immediately off-putting guy who makes grand romantic gestures like surprising her with a sudden six-day-seven-night (you see, that’s the title, SIX DAYS SEVEN NIGHTS) vacation to the South Pacific, where he proposes and she says yes.
But she also meets Quinn Harris (Harrison Ford, THE EXPENDABLES 3), a grizzled, hard-drinking pilot of the small plane who gets them from a larger island to their final destination of Makatea after their more lush charter falls through. On the island he drunkenly hits on her at the bar, forgetting that he was the one who just got her there, and Ford does a good bleary-eyed horny dude. Robin is polite but unimpressed, in contrast to Frank, who could not for the life of him hide his boner for Quinn’s busty and flirtatious co-pilot/sort of girlfriend Angelica (Jacqueline Obradors, UNSTOPPABLE, BAD ASSES).
The couples get mixed up when Robin’s boss (Allison Janney, I, TONYA) calls insisting she has to get to Tahiti for a photo shoot, she pays Quinn to fly her and then a storm causes them to crash on an uninhabited island. Quinn tries to deduce which island they’re on and they climb a mountain to where he believes there is a beacon. They squabble and blame each other and try to come up with the usual plans such as “fix the plane” or “build a boat.” And they have such sexual-tension adventures as “I have to stick my hand in your pants because of the snake that crawled in there” and dodge a few dangers and are tempted to kiss.
Meanwhile back on the island Frank and Angelica spend time together aiding the search and rescue party, and Frank not-so-heroically attempts to turn down Angelica’s casual sex offer. Also there’s a weird timeline where a whole night passes for Robin and Quinn and the editing implies that their significant others were riding in a helicopter the entire time.
One random “they probly thought this would be funnier” joke is that she pops a bunch of Xanax before the crash and is very goofy and calm about the whole thing. But I guess it’s more fun than having her panic (like she later does when she sees a pig). On the island she bickers without being too annoying, though you’re mostly invited to laugh with Quinn’s smart-assed retorts, and to admire his caustic scoffing at women allegedly liking men in touch with their feminine sides.
On the positive side they don’t make her as incapable as I expected. She’s counting on him being “One of those guys, you know, those guys with skills,” but she holds her own in fisticuffs and seems to need no instruction during a boat-building montage. They make a point of her tying some kind of fancy knot.
The pleasures or attempted pleasures are time-tested and maybe a little rusty for 1998, things like “They’re standing near a real cliff!” and “they’re scared but they have no choice but to jump off the cliff into water!” Other than a few iffy composite shots of the plane or a bomb (long story) it’s very analog and practical filmmaking. And I read that Ford did his own flying in the movie. I’m not sure how much that entails, but it’s interesting that he predicted his own future of crashing small planes.
It goes long enough without any type of antagonist that it seems kind of silly and unnecessary when they run into some pirates who chase them and shoot at them. They both put up a pretty good fight, but lose and are gonna get executed until Robin convinces them she has a stash of gold. (Pirates and leprechauns both fall for that shit.) It’s kind of a small part of the movie, almost an after thought, but respect is due for the legit casting of the pirate trio: Temuera Morrison (THE MARINE 2), Cliff Curtis (LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD) and Danny Trejo (ANACONDA).
There are a couple other people in the cast I wasn’t expecting: Janney as Robin’s boss, Amy Sedaris (Strangers With Candy) as her secretary. At the resort the surprisingly good live music is provided by Taj Mahal. The young guy in the search helicopter is Derek Basco, older brother of Dante Basco, a.ka. Pinball from BLOOD AND BONE.
Okay. A.K.A. Rufio from HOOK. But to me he’s always Pinball.
The score by Randy Edelman (LAST OF THE MOHICANS) has a bunch of, I don’t know, calypso inspired (?) steel drum stuff (call it “going COMMANDO“), but there are some parts that just sound like straight up old fashioned adventure movie score. You don’t really hear much of this style in today’s movies, and I miss it.
Under normal circumstances I wouldn’t have much to say about this movie, but it has a surprising number of parallels to the other Summer of ’98 movies. First of all, this turns out to be a time of many Friends movies. We saw Matt LeBlanc in LOST IN SPACE and Lisa Kudrow in THE OPPOSITE OF SEX and I skipped them but in April Jennifer Aniston had THE OBJECT OF MY AFFECTION and in May Matthew Perry had ALMOST HEROES. Courteney Cox was the only one that skipped being on the big screen that year because she was already a movie star from SCREAM and SCREAM 2 so she was like “fuck you guys I’m gonna go to the lake house and read books” or whatever.
More importantly, it was the season of women in journalism. DEEP IMPACT had its DC-based MSNBC reporter/anchor, GODZILLA had a New York TV news assistant turned rogue reporter, THE HORSE WHISPERER had a New York magazine editor and here we have a New York assistant-magazine editor. Just like Annie in the latter, Robin leaves snowy New York for a sunny, isolated place but gets calls from work and is having trouble doing what they want her to. Her cell phone is presented as a symbol of her status (but it’s useless on the island). And she’s in a relationship from back home but ends up attracted to this much more rugged man who she hires and she tries to resist the temptation but gives in and they discuss the difficulty of him leaving his simple life or her leaving her busy one although the simple life does seem to be warming her soul or some shit.
This one SPOILER does not follow the HORSE WHISPERER’s bittersweet ending, though. It goes for the standard romantic comedy version where they say goodbye and they’re sad and then they both seem to be regretting their decisions but they’re leaving and it seems like it’s too late. I mean they got the exact he-shows-up-at-the-airport-but-thinks-he’s-too-late/turns-out-she-didn’t-get-on-the-plane thing that seems old enough for our civilization to have been built on it. Thank you Michael Browning, who also wrote BAD COMPANY.
Reitman wasn’t exactly on a roll in my opinion. This was preceded by FATHER’S DAY and followed by EVOLUTION. I have only seen the latter and I… guess this is better? It’s a fiercely mediocre movie. The reviews were probly harsher than deserved, but I’m not gonna organize a protest or anything. It couldn’t knock THE TRUMAN SHOW out of the #1 slot or make much more than its budget in the U.S., but it did well enough overseas to be successful.
It definitely seems like more of a Hollywood movie star vehicle than a directorial vision. Ford was in a period where he was alternating between action/thriller and romantic movies – THE FUGITIVE and CLEAR AND PRESENT DANGER, then SABRINA. THE DEVIL’S OWN and AIR FORCE ONE, then this followed by RANDOM HEARTS. These are not the iconic classics people think of when they hear his name, but they were mostly okay movies elevated by the gravitas of being Harrison Ford Movies.
It was more of a make or break for Heche, who was in her first starring role (though she’d had a major part in the ’97 summer blockbuster VOLCANO). At the time she was primarily known to the public as Ellen DeGeneres’s girlfriend, as their relationship had been made public the day after she was cast in this part. She had the unenviable role of trying to promote a movie about being kissy-kissy with Harrison Ford while fielding very personal questions and having to explain bisexuality to people and stuff. People even believed she was faking her sexuality for career reasons. You know, the ol’ “pretend to be gay to ride the coattails of a popular day time talk show host” gambit that established so many of the biggest movie stars of that era. Too bad it’s not a better movie for her to have to deal with all that shit.
VERN has a new action-horror novel out called WORM ON A HOOK! He has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the film criticism books Seagalogy: A Study of the Ass-Kicking Films of Steven Seagal and Yippee Ki-Yay Moviegoer!: Writings on Bruce Willis, Badass Cinema and Other Important Topics as well as the crime novel Niketown.