06
Mar
13

Beetlejuice (1988)

The Deetz Family

The Deetz Family

I can probably blame a great deal of my affected, preteen discontent and misanthropy on Winona Ryder’s 1988 film roles.  Her portrayal of Veronica Sawyer in Heathers fed me the taste of revenge against the “cool” kids, and like Lydia Deetz in Beetlejuice, I felt oh, so “utterly alone.” I watched both of these films incessantly growing up. Revisiting Beetlejuice for the first time in years, I saw a pretty clear connection between its worldview and my own at the time, but my adult eyes also found a movie much more clever than I ever could have realized as a kid.

Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis play Adam and Barbara Maitland, owners of a hardware store in a quaint little town in Connecticut. They live in a much-coveted house, which a pesky real-estate agent named Jane is constantly trying to buy out from under them. But the Maitlands are happy where they are, until Adam drives their

Barbara Maitland, waiting room, No Exit.

Barbara Maitland, waiting room, No Exit.

car into the river, killing them both. As they become acquainted with the world of the dead through reading The Handbook for the Recently Deceased, their house is purchased by some truly awful New Yorkers. Charles Deetz (Jeffrey Jones) is just looking for a place to “relax,” while his wife, Delia (Catherine O’Hara), is looking for a remodeling project. Charles’ daughter, Lydia, doesn’t know what she’s looking for other than some space away from her stepmother.

Beetlejuice, the last resort.

Beetlejuice, the last resort.

The Maitlands are forced to watch in horror as Delia and her interior designer, Otho, knock down walls and paint the place horrifying colors. They’ve had no luck with Juno, their caseworker, and against her warning enlist the help of a Bio-Exorcist named Beetlejuice (Michael Keaton) in hopes of scaring the Deetzes out of their house. Wackiness ensues.

I can only hope to look this good when I'm dead.

I can only hope to look this good when I’m dead.

These days, the name Tim Burton carries nothing but negative weight as ar as I’m concerned, but Beetlejuice is darn-near perfect. It’s a great mix of comedy and horror, and instead of pulling from one tired bag of tricks, it actually has some interesting things to say. How can the country bumpkin come to terms with the lives of New York socialites? How can the dead come to terms with the living? And how can a young girl caught in between not jump off a bridge?

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