It’s Sunday and there’s an open house in the neighborhood. A real estate agent sets up shop to greet prospective home buyers. Couples trickle in and start exploring the upstairs and downstairs. And then a round of bidding begins.
Sounds typical of many realty agents’ Sunday afternoons, that is until you add a jewel thief, realize that one of the couples has had sex in the house, the real estate agent is not really a real estate agent, and many of the conversations are actually songs.
That’s the setup for “Open House,” a musical comedy about the common act of finding a dream home. The film, written and directed by Dan Mirvish, is out on DVD today by Wellspring Media.
Mirvish describes the plot in a nutshell: “A diverse group of home buyers goes to a series of open houses on a Sunday afternoon. They’re basically all on the search for love, a bag of jewels and a two-story Spanish colonial.”
The story climaxes with a bidding war for one of the homes.
The film is Mirvish’s second feature as a director. Mirvish, who is the co-founder of the Slamdance Film Festival, made his film debut with “Omaha (The Movie)” in 1995. He teamed up with writing partner Larry Maddox to craft the script for “Open House,” and recruited composer Joe Kraemer to help write the songs.
The film had a small theatrical release and was screened in Los Angeles during the 2004 Oscars as well as a couple of nights in New York this fall, Mirvish said.
The movie stars Anthony Rapp, who’s played in “A Beautiful Mind” and Jonathan Larson’s Broadway production of “RENT”; and Sally Kellerman, who played in “M*A*S*H.”
Rapp plays Barry Farnsworth, a sweaty, awkward agent in his early 30s with an unusual passion for the house he’s showing.
Kellerman “steals the show,” according to Mirvish, as Marjorie Milford, a dispirited real estate agent with a penchant for younger men and tequila. Milford ends up finding redemption and pride as an agent with a firm code of ethics.
Other stars include Kellie Martin as Debbie Delany, a 20-something earthy hipster who likes to visit open houses with her boyfriend to have sex and steal things. Martin is best known for her roles in television series “ER” and “Life Goes On.”
James Duvall, who starred in “Donnie Darko” and “The Doom Generation,” plays Debbie’s boyfriend, Joel Rodman.
And then there’s Dave Torkensen, a down-on-his-luck jewel thief with a broken-down getaway car. Dave, played by Jerry Doyle, pretends to be an endocrinologist who’s interested in buying a house.
Mirvish said the inspiration for the film came from his own house-shopping experiences.
“My wife and I were looking for a house about five years ago and spent about five months going to open houses in Culver City, Calif.,” he said. While his wife was looking at square footage, moldings and hinges, Mirvish said he was looking more at the owners’ stuff in the houses.
“It seemed so strange to me that all their things would still be in their house during open houses and you could just sort of wander through and look at people’s things,” he said. “I would try to figure out why the people were selling the house.”
Mirvish said he would get these snapshots of the homes’ residents. “It seemed like an area ripe for satire and something we could have fun with.”
The film bills itself as one of the few feature films to show real estate agents in a positive light. Mirvish said he sought advice from agents in creating the film. A page on the film’s Web site is devoted to explaining how it promotes home ownership and real estate, noting that the agent characters offer genuine advice on how to buy and finance a home.
A few real estate brokers and agents, including Lainey Melnick with Silicon Hills Preferred Properties in Austin, Texas, and Elliot Epstein with Prestigious Properties in the Hamptons, N.Y., helped Mirvish fund the film.
Also, Mirvish said Gail Posnack, an agent with Joyce Realty, Batjac Division in Suffern, N.Y., was the film’s technical advisor. And a few Los Angeles agents helped the crew find locations for shooting.
A number of shots in the film are of open house signs, which featured the names and company logos of those real estate agents who helped with the film, Mirvish said.
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