Overboard (1987), starring Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell, is a comedy of its time. Watching this movie gives a sense of just how much has changed in the past twenty-five years. The basic concept in which a woman disappears to live a different life would not work as easily in our world of 24-hour worldwide news and social networking. Overboard is entirely predictable and can’t sustain its early momentum, but for the most part it’s an enjoyable experience.
Hawn plays Joanna Stayton, a rich and spoiled ice queen, who by happenstance meets up with a grungy carpenter named Dean Proffitt (Russell). Dean has been hired to build an extra shoe closet on Joanna’s yacht while the ship is under repair in the out of the way little town of Elk Grove, Oregon. The pair don’t hit it off at all, and Joanna leaves Dean unpaid for his work after dumping his tools in the water. An angry Dean wants revenge, and soon finds a way to get it. The next day Joanna turns up in the local hospital with amnesia after falling overboard from her yacht. When Joanna’s equally rich and spoiled husband doesn’t even want her back, Dean decides to step in.
Dean figures he can get Joanna to work off her debt by cleaning his house and taking care of his four unruly children. He tells Joanna her name is Annie Proffitt and that she is his wife. He takes her home to his dilapidated house, puts her in ill-fitting second hand clothes and sets her to work. If you think about it too much the plot of this film is rather disturbing. A man kidnaps (for all practical purposes) a woman, and basically keeps her as a slave. He also convinces his four kids, whose own mother passed away two years before, to call this new woman "Mom" and pretend they have known her all their lives. If this weren’t a light-hearted comedy, the emotional turmoil this would cause is frightening. This same story could almost be done as a horror movie.