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Pacific Heights is required viewing in all Apartment Management courses in San Diego County. It is a chilling tale of decent but uneducated and unprepared new owners with a dream unknowingly up against a seasoned player in the professional renter game. This viewing requirement is one of the tools used to introduce starry-eyed management newcomers to the harsh and not-so-easily apparent world of the sick, the dangerous and the sue-happy portion of the rental market who will try to get the management stripped of all their personal assets and possessions, fired and possibly jailed, who work diligently to get the owner's property away from him/her, and who have no objection to going down as long as they can take others with them. Great movie.
Prior to this film,we only saw Michael Keaton in comedic,and good guy roles.In Pacific Heights,he proves to us that he is not afraid to turn on us and be the bad guy.Keaton is excellent as Carter Hayes,the worst kind of no account,as he knows how to stay just out of reach of the law. The character is very similar to that of Max Cady in Cape Fear,though Cady is the far more memorable of the two.Carter Hayes is a nightmarish tenant wreaking havoc on the lives of his helpless landlords,wonderfully played by Melanie Griffith and Matthew Modine.I consider this film to be an overlooked classic that never really got the attention it deserved,perhaps because no one wanted to see Keaton,particularly after his Batman success,as a villain.Those looking for a modern day "Hitchcock-esque" thriller will find a winner here.Thumbs up!
This film didn't completely win me over like I was hoping it would, but some solid acting, a good premise, and a few clever scenes made it worthwhile. There was never anything particularly suspenseful about the film, and you pretty much know who will win by the end, but the loathesome Michael Keaton character helped to keep me interested throughout. There were also a few things that especially annoyed me, including the terminally stupid Matthew Modine character, but this movie just has too many positives for me to dwell on the negatives. It's by no means perfect, but it's an effective thriller nonetheless.
I saw this movie again recently, and I have to say that upon
reconsideration I think this film is a bit underrated. There are a few
deeper sociological issues being explored here that I perceive but are
quite subtle in their appearance in the film.
It is a study about the law to some degree, and it has some critical things to say about the ability for one who knows the law and its loopholes and thus exploits others with tools that were originally intended to preserve civil society. Keaton plays a psycho, but one who is highly educated and quite adept at his craft of fraud and deceit.
Further, Modine's character is irrational, befuddled, and ultimately marginalized. I wonder if the director took some liberties with him (as this is a true story, I don't know everything about the real person he portrays) to bring out a few of his close-minded tendencies that may have contributed to the awful situation in which he finds himself. Obviously, there is the closet racism which keeps him from renting to a black man (this is thrown in the viewer's face later and is quite obvious), but there is also the way he perceives a man's role as the solver of problems and his wife as nothing more than a spectator.
That she ends up being the one to calmly and coolly affect a search for and investigate Keaton's character, assaults the traditional notions of a man's role as a protector. Her temperament is ultimately more appropriate for the solution to the problem, and I think it is no accident that the director portrays it in this way.
William Goldman says that the last 15 minutes are the most important of
any movie and that's what saves what is otherwise a sometimes
fascinating but often dull film in "Pacific Heights."
The plot line is fairly interesting but feels rather drawn out through most of the film, until the fantastic ending pulls out all the stops and turns the film into something good. The writing in general is a bit contrived and the dialogue fairly wooden, but it isn't quite enough to destroy the film even early.
The acting is very uneven, led by a terrible Melanie Griffith and a middling performance by Matthew Modine in terms of screen time, but certainly controlled by the fantastic performance of Michael Keaton, one of the world's greatest actors. Keaton is especially fantastic in the final sequence, from his charming act with the old woman to his harrowing, venemous final scene there is a complete change in who he is and it is all the more frightening and powerful for the juxtaposition.
Schlesinger's direction, besides Keaton's performance, is probably the saving grace of the film. He manages to inject a beautiful dark style to the film that the script rather lacks but seems to want while also keeping us in a blunt reality with the plain, simple outdoor shots. His use of lighting and well-chosen camera angles wonderfully play up the situation.
Overall, "Pacific Heights" is a middling film with a fantastic performance by Michael Keaton and good direction by John Schlesinger that turns into something better with its fantastic, surprising, venemously satisfying ending. If you watch it, though, don't give up on it 'til it's over.
This is a carefully programmed yuppie nightmare, something to titillate
the emotions betwixt the sushi and the creme de mint, something to
remind the upwardly mobile that you have to keep your guard up at all
times because there are animals out there waiting to take it all away
Clever plot premise: Yuppie couple, stylishly unmarried, possibly for tax purposes, buy a painted lady in the Pacific Heights district of San Francisco, a Victorian fixer upper for $750,000. It's the 1980's and everybody is getting rich in California real estate. They are now in yuppie heaven since there are two rentals on the property which take care of $2300 of the $3700 monthly mortgage, which leaves them responsible for only $1400, which is less then they were paying before, and now they have a huge tax write-off and hopefully an appreciating property. Of course they are margined to the gills, but what can go wrong?
How about the tenant from hell? Forget about your wild parties and your late-with-the-rent dead beats. This guy (Michael Keaton as a slimy, upper crust psycho genius) doesn't even pay the deposit. He just moves in, squats, and our yuppie couple is helpless to get rid of him since by law he now has possession. He changes the locks, cultivates big ugly oriental cockroaches, and pounds away at all hours of the night, and chases off the other tenant. Seems he has done this before. Seems it is an elaborate scam to gain total possession of the entire property. Next to go are the owners.
Naturally the cops and the law seem to work for him, not our adorable couple. (This is a little fictional reality to further excite the passions of the audience, call it poetic license, since we all know that the tenant/landlord laws in California are written by and for the propertied class, as they are anywhere else, as is only right.)
But this is a morality play. Could it be that our yuppies are undeserving of their wealth and are easy prey in the econ jungle because of their naiveté? Could be. But as this is a modern morality tale, you can be sure that the woman, played with worrisome lines under her eyes by the ever adorable Melanie Griffith, will turn the tables and kick some male butt despite the handicap of having a not too bright boyfriend, who is easily manipulated by our villain into some rather stupid male behavior that makes things worse for our heroine. Incidentally, he is played with such annoying exactitude by Matthew Modine that I can hear the rednecks in the audience screaming: "Die yuppie scum!"
It should be noticed that the adversary of the yuppies is not your standard ghetto dweller, but a wayward member of the upper class, a fitting adversary in this yuppie trial by fire.
I'll let you guess who wins.
(Note: Over 500 of my movie reviews are now available in my book "Cut to the Chaise Lounge or I Can't Believe I Swallowed the Remote!" Get it at Amazon!)
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Pacific Heights is a great movie is you're in the mood for good suspense. It
is the tale of two newlyweds (Melanie Griffith as Patty; Matt Modine as
Drake), slightly short on reasonable income, who buy a hefty house in
Pacific Heights. Being a larger house than they initially intended to buy,
they rent out the floors. One goes to a polite Asian couple. The other, to a
wealthy man (Michael Keaton as Carter Hayes) who is in the business of real
Carter is the worst case scenario of a tenant. Short of murdering the landlords and fellow tenants, he moves in rather quickly and bypasses much of the background checks by telling the impressionable young couple a bunch of lies (actually, it's pretty much Drake's fault for rushing into everything without adequately checking up on Hayes). Then, without every paying up the rent or deposit, he hangs around just long enough to get tenant's rights (or at least a presumption of rights, after which the already tight-budget couple would have to sue to claim misrepresentation and everything) and keep the couple from kicking him out. Gradually, terrorizing them as he had done so many times before. It's all part of his scam.
Michael Keaton is terrific as the elusive and obviously strange and brutally eerie Carter Hayes. He is so creepy, I think that's what makes the movie so suspenseful like the scene when he's hanging out in the basement when the power goes out. Or the final revenge sequence in the hotel (perhaps the finale is one of the greatest revenge sequences ever in a movie!). The guy who's made it his purpose to raise as much hell as possible to get what he wants. But, this may well be the last time Carter gets away with it. Patty and Drake seem to fall apart when their tenant not only refuses to leave, but makes trouble for the other tenants (in a pretty gross way).
Drake doesn't handle the situation too well. The couple immediately feel helpless when even the law fails to rid them of Carter Hayes. The viewer, too, gets on edge about Carter Hayes. How do you make a guy like this get the f*ck out of your home? (That's one of the great elements of suspense, in a way, we feel like the invasion of Patty and Drake's home is like an invasion of our own. That's just how powerful a character like Carter Hayes is). And Drake's form of vigilante justice isn't the smartest way of handling the situation, using fists of fury rather than intellect, which seems to only exacerbate the couple's problems. In fact, Patty is the one responsible for the fantastic events that create one of the best revenge scenes and really give Carter Hayes his own just deserts.
Pacific Heights really is a fantastic thriller. Some might not appreciate Matthew Modine being cast as Drake here. A part like this might've called for someone less dorky, since Drake wasn't really a straggly guy, he was just a guy who wanted to get rid of Carter too fast without really thinking about the smartest way of going about it. However, Melanie Griffith works great in her role as Patty. Nonetheless, it is really good stuff, a thriller that you're sure to enjoy!
An unusual choice for Michael Keaton to follow up his first "Batman"
movie with him going from hero and to outright villain.
Plot In A Paragraph: Drake Goodman (Modine) and Patty Palmer (Griffith)an unmarried couple, purchase an expensive 19th-century house in the exclusive Pacific Heights neighbourhood. They rent one of the building's two first-floor apartments to the Watanabes, a kindly Japanese couple. Not long after, Carter Hayes (Keaton) visits to view the remaining vacant unit and immediately expresses a desire to move in. Hayes drives an expensive Porsche and carries large amounts of cash on him. He convinces Drake to waive the credit check in exchange for a list of personal references and an upfront payment of the first six months' rent, to be paid by wire transfer. Before any of that happens he moves in unannounced and refuses to leave.
Melanie Griffith whilst looking great is awful acting wise, and Matthew Modine had me questioning how this man forged a career as an actor. Some of my main annoyances came from his character, and I had my concerns that he may end up being the real psycho, but his performance really was dire.
It's Keaton as the villain of the piece, who shines and gives the movie it's best scenes. Tippi Hedren and Dan Hedaya have small roles and Beverley D'Angelo has an uncredited role as a former lover/business partner of Carter's. I'm not sure why she is uncredited though.
"Pacific Heights" is based on a true story, about a couple who rent out an
apartment to a crazy scam man, played by Michael Keaton in the film, who
reak havoc. Needless to say, this is a very basic and very predictable
"thriller," if that is what you want to call it, but it's more of a
character study, and despite its predictability it IS very
3/5 stars -
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Pacific Heights is unusual among psycho-thrillers because of its
completely different approach to psychological terror. Instead of a
Freddy Krueger or a Michael Myers we have Michael Keaton as a psychotic
tenant who makes life hell for his landlords Melanie Griffith and
Matthew Modine. Knowing every legal loophole in the book, his weapons
of choice are restraining orders and civil suits, not butcher knives
and chainsaws. Driving them to increasingly desperate measures to evict
him, Keaton dreams up new and more sadistic methods to torment them.
I've always thought Pacific Heights is rather underrated. It's got a mite more intelligence than you'd expect from Hollywood's hijacked psycho-stalker genre. John Schlesinger directs it all with confidence, but then he's an old hand in this area. And Michael Keaton is wonderfully malevolent. His presence makes the entire movie. I've always enjoyed the course the film takes us on. Even if it occasionally gets into some muddy areas along the way, Pacific Heights is compelling to the very end.
Modine and Griffith play Drake Goodman and Patty Palmer. A young and naive yuppie couple, they renovate a Victorian house in San Francisco. Truthfully, the house is more than they can afford, but can (barely) make ends meet by renting out two downstairs apartments. One to a nice Japanese couple. And the other to businessman Carter Hayes (Keaton).
Hayes moves in without permission, or even a down payment. He locks himself in, not paying any rent. He has a roommate, who hammers away to all hours of the night. He changes the locks. Breeds cockroaches. Drives away the other tenants. And because no money is coming in, Drake and Patty's legal status is becoming all the more shakier. As is they're relationship.
Pacific Heights is a film that comes with a certain appeal when looked at closely enough. The idea of a tenant being able to have more power than a landlord is scary stuff. I didn't always believe some of the stunts the film pulls. Unleashing hordes of cockroaches is perhaps going a little too far. Even for a psycho-thriller. Even a tenant who knows how to manipulate the law for his own purposes would have to face culpability sometime.
And yet at the same time, Pacific Heights is a constant source of fascination. Hayes leads Drake and Patty through a wonderfully complex legal minefield. Its surprisingly the film's threats of foreclosure and mounting bills that are more effective than its outright sinister approaches.
This is a criminally overlooked performance on Michael Keaton's resume. In fact he's always been an actor long overdue recognition. Hot off the success of Batman, Keaton plunges right into the role of Carter Hayes with pure, unadulterated relish. Even though Hayes' motivations are never exactly made clear, its Keaton's performance that sells the character.
This is a man with no redeeming qualities whatsoever. He apparently comes from a broken home. Shut out of the family fortune. Disowned. So now he takes a perverse pleasure in destroying the lives of those happier than his. Keaton is a powerful presence. All the more remarkable considering he spends most of the film behind closed doors.
Whenever Keaton is around, you sit up and pay attention. But I can't really say the same for Modine and Griffith. Modine is annoying the way he stupidly plays into Hayes' hands time and again.
And as for Griffith, she only really comes into her own towards the end. Melanie Griffith once showed signs of being a promising actress in the 80s. Witness her superb performance in Working Girl. But over the years her star has paled, and now she's nothing more than another face in the crowd.
But towards the end, we finally see something of the promise she showed in Working Girl. She exacts a little revenge on Hayes by playing him at his own game. She tracks him down to a swanky hotel, has his bank account frozen, and charges hundreds of dollars worth of room service to his credit card. That's the Melanie I remember.
But elsewhere, every shred of enjoyment to be had comes courtesy of Keaton. There is something wonderfully poetic to Pacific Heights at times. Not to mention unnerving. Like when Hayes calmly provokes Drake into beating the crap out of him, because the stress of all this causes a pregnant Patty to suffer a miscarriage. And best of all, Drake is legally restrained from entering his own home. Because of Hayes' presence there.
The climax is pretty good too. That's the point when Schlesinger (and Keaton) forgets about being courteous, and launches into all out psycho mode. Complete with nail-guns and spikes.
Pacific Heights is maddeningly vague at times about where its going to go next. But I think its a worthwhile film, and well worthy of reevaluation. Also look out for a fine turn from the underrated Laurie Metcalf as Drake and Patty's attorney. She lights up the screen just as much as Keaton does.
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