A series of overlapping stories about four suburban families dealing with different maladies. Esther Gold's life is consumed by caring for her comatose son; Jim Train is sent into a ...
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A series of overlapping stories about four suburban families dealing with different maladies. Esther Gold's life is consumed by caring for her comatose son; Jim Train is sent into a tailspin when he's passed over for a promotion; Annette Jennings' family is struggling in the wake of her divorce; Helen Christianson is determined to shake up her mundane life. Written by
"It's a life you've made," one of the characters in The Safety of Objects muses at one point. "Don't act like it's not yours." In this small indie picture by Rose Troche (Go Fish, Bedrooms and Hallways), four families struggle with life in suburbia, each searching for a reason to wake up the next morning. Esther Gold (Glenn Close) is a reclusive middle-aged mother who's closest friend is her comatose son (Joshua Jackson). Her daughter, Julie (Jessica Campbell), is obsessed with her weight and deals with sexual frustration. Jim Train (Dermot Mulroney) is a high-paid lawyer who is turned down for a promotion and is almost entirely isolated from the rest of his family. His wife, Susan (Moira Kelly), might be having an affair with a family friend, and his son Jake (Alex House) is developing a fetish for his sister's doll. Annette Jennings (Patricia Clarkson) has to handle with the sudden intrusion of her ex-husband asking for their children back -- one of whom is mentally incapacitated while the other (Kristen Stewart) is an androgynous 12-year-old smoker. And lastly, Helen Christianson (Mary Kay Place) is a health-nut soccer-mom alienated from her husband (C. David Johnson), son (Aaron Ashmore) and daughter (Charlotte Arnold). Phew: I think that about sums it up. But there's much more to The Safety of Objects than just a video-box synopsis; adapted from a brilliant short story collection by one of our generation's best (and most under-rated) authors, A.M. Homes, the characters in these vignettes actually live and breathe. Their situations may seem outrageous, but when you consider the outrageousness of life itself, they're eerily believable. Being a die-hard Homes fan, I was skeptical as to how anyone could bring such a complex piece of literature to the screen, and contrary to what you might read in most reviews (which were unjustly negative), Troche succeeds tremendously. Sure she takes some "artistic license," but don't ALL adapted films? Personally, I've tried to never compare the source to the movie; but even if I did, I would still be more than satisfied with this interpretation. The script (also by Troche) cleverly intertwines sketches that were connected only in theme in Homes's book (which I highly recommend to anyone, whether or not you've seen the film). And the performances ... wow! Clarkson is simply one of the best actors of all time: she is so utterly and effortlessly likable that she doesn't even have to try to gain our sympathy. Mulroney tackles the difficulty of being a middle-aged husband to perfection, and Place expresses similar frustration with subtlety and ease. But the central force among the characters is Close: while she hardly speaks a word (unless she's talking to her son, that is), her sad smile of longing gazes at all of the events around her with a combined sense of understanding and bewilderment. She reminds me (as does the film, actually) of last year's terrific Things You Can Tell Just By Looking At Her, and in a way, her role here is a companion piece to that film -- which ends with her sitting in a bar, oblivious that the man across from her just might be her soul mate. The score is quietly moving, and the direction is nearly seamless. I remember reading Roger Ebert's review for this, in which he criticized it for not being as good as American Beauty: personally, I'd say The Safety of Objects is not only as good as that film, but perhaps even better. Instead of hammering you over the head with its art (as Beauty was so obnoxiously guilty of at times), its effect sinks beneath the skin. At the end of the film, nothing is really resolved: each character will still have to find a reason to wake up the next day, and they will still struggle with their past demons. But now, they're finally able to acknowledge that this IS their life, and it's only the way it is because they made it so. The Safety of Objects reminds us that even though we can make the choice to change, it's so much easier to just cling to monotony.
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