Six Days Seven Nights

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.

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14 Responses to “Six Days Seven Nights”

  1. I don’t remember anything about this movie, other than what my mother said after we watched it together: “Wow, that was an easy paycheck for Harrison Ford.”

    I noticed btw that Americans really need(ed?) help to learn the concept of bisexuality. How else do you explain all that “CHASING AMY is an awful movie that says that lesbians just need the right man to become straight” from a while ago?

  2. I feel like this one just about marks the end of Harrison Ford’s interest in being in movies. He was never a guy with a huge range, but starting here, his default acting mode seems to just be set at “grumpy”. Makes it a little hard for me to enjoy his stuff for me, though it doesn’t help that from this point on, it’s pretty much all stuff like HOLLYWOOD HOMICIDE and COWBOYS AND ALIENS. I guess I can’t really blame him though- once you’ve already been both Han Solo and Indiana Jones, what more can you ask for?

  3. CJ- from what I recall, the concept of bisexuality isn’t ever even mentioned in CHASING AMY, is it? The whole hook of the movie was “a lesbian hooks up with a man”, and if she had the option of just declaring herself to be bisexual, there would have been a lot less trouble and angst in the plot (and thus, less movie). I think it’s partly a function of where society was at that time- I certainly remember a long period where the concept of bisexuality being dismissed by all sides as people being “indecisive” or “experimenting”, and that folks would eventually settle into the “right” roles. People find comfort in a binary, I suppose, though I think that’s changing pretty rapidly in much of the US in recent years.

  4. “Fiercely mediocre” is the perfect phraseology. It’s like it sort of does everything right. We get the Harrison Ford fisticuffs (and I think even the same punching sound from Indiana Jones) and rom-com shenanigans, but it just… adds up to nothing.

    I always hoped there was a reason they got the title wrong. In vacations, it’s always one more day than night, because they count both the day you arrive and the day you depart, but obviously you don’t stay the night you depart. So a week long vacation is likely to be 7 Days, 6 Nights. I suppose you could always arrive after dinner and leave before dawn to throw the equation out of whack, but WTF does this title mean?

    Since Heche has had a legit comeback on television and indie movies, I have gotten to meet her and she was super appreciative that I knew all her ’90s movies. Mainly that I was such a genuine fan of Volcano, but knew about this and The Juror too. In conclusion, Anne Heche loves me and we’re friends now.

  5. Kurgan, does it HAVE to be explained, mentioned or spelled out in a story about a woman who has romantic and sexual relationships with men and women? That’s like watching a zombie movie and then asking “Were those undead brain eaters zombies? Because they never said the Z-word!”

  6. CJ- In 1997? Unfortunately yeah, I kinda think it did, honestly. Like I said, at the time, very few people believed that bisexuality was even a real thing. Even though it’s figuratively staring the viewer right in the face, the concept doesn’t even seem to occur to any of the characters in the movie. Hell, the wikipedia page for the movie *today* doesn’t even mention the idea, except in the article categories at the very bottom of the page. Like, not to get too deep into personal shit here, but I personally identify as bi, was growing up in the time of the movie, and felt very confused about what I “was” for a long time specifically because the “gay/straight” binary was so strongly enforced and understood within the wider culture of America at the time. You were either one or the other, and ya gotta pick.

  7. This may be off the mark, but it seemed like the mainstream version of bisexuality was two women making out as something to spice up an otherwise straight, vanilla relationship.

  8. Yeah it’s weird that this does seem remembered mostly for the “Will Anne Heche be able to convincingly play straight?” brouhaha, and it sucks that this movie’s relative failure probably resulted in people going, “Ha! You see, audiences aren’t ready to accept gay people as anything else! Back in the closet you go!” But it’s also not a very good or memorable movie, and who knows if any actress would have been able to have good comedic romantic chemistry with Ford at that phase of his career (I mean, most audiences now will probably be more weirded out by the difference in age between the two rather than her offscreen sex life).

    Btw, the “Anne Heche becomes gay to further her career” thing definitely got traction from Bowfinger, where Heather Graham plays a thinly veiled version of Heche (Steve Martin’s real-life ex), She sleeps around with all the characters to social climb and becomes a lesbian at the end, wakka wakka. It comes across a little bitter and off-putting now, but then again I have no idea what happened between them. Interestingly, Heche’s autobiography (written several years after Bowfinger) paints Steve Martin in the rosiest light I’ve ever seen an ex painted, and she only has good things to say about him. I hope they’ve made peace because I’ve always liked both of them alot.

  9. Midnight Choker

    June 26th, 2018 at 2:45 pm

    All I can say about this movie is that, if you bought a Sony DVD player in 1999, they sent you this disc for free (along with LOST IN SPACE!).

  10. Vern, it’s your peculiar sorcery to get me to read (and enjoy) a review of a movie I had no interest in seeing in 1998, have had no interest in seeing in the two decades since, and will have no interest in seeing through the remainder of my life. Good work!

  11. If nothing else Jacqueline Obradors is super hot in this and the scene where she’s stripping down in front of David Schwimmer is memorable.

    But yeah, this is from that era where Harrison Ford was just kinda bland, culminating in the terrible HOLLYWOOD HOMICIDE which felt like a fake movie playing in another movie.

  12. Vern, this review nails it but I do have to say I think FUGITIVE is a high water mark for Ford in the 90’s. To be fair I haven’t seen it in a while so I don’t know if it holds up but that movie was pretty cool then. It was more a vehicle for Tommy Lee Jones to be honest but Jones and his flashy performance played nicely opposite Ford’s more stoic 90’s personality.

  13. CLEAR AND PRESENT DANGER holds up a lot too. It’s Ford’s movie, but it’s held up as much by a lot of well-written characters carried out by a lot of great actors.

  14. “Yeah it’s weird that this does seem remembered mostly for the “Will Anne Heche be able to convincingly play straight?” brouhaha …”

    I have a copy of Empire Magazine where someone had written in to complain about this very thing … (!).

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