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"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.
This film directed by Rose Troche must have been forgotten by the studio who
decided to bring it to the screen and suddenly released it without much
fanfare. Granted, it is a small film. It is the kind of movie we don't get
to see much because with a lot of independent films, if there are no big
names, they don't get a chance to find an audience.
Glen Close, as Esther Gold, the suffering mother of a bed ridden young man in a coma gives an honest performance. She is one actress that is always interesting to watch. She makes us believe she is this woman living a nightmare because of the son's accident. Esther's marriage seems to be a loveless one. Her husband is in a different wave length. At the same time, her relationship with her daughter is strained because of the guilt of the young woman carries inside her and doesn't come out until the end.
Patricia Clarkson keeps getting better all the time. She is the town's joke because she is the victim of a husband that has fled the home because he has found a younger, more attractive woman . Ms Clarkson is another natural actress no matter where and what vehicle she appears in. I'll just mention two other roles besides this just to show her versatility: True Art and Far from Heaven. Her range is enormous. What a talented lady!
Dermot Mulroney is excellent as the young neighbor married to Moira Kelly. Mr. Mulroney is also very effective in the film. Mary Kay Place's Helen is on target. We don't get to see her a lot and she deserves to be seen. The younger actors playing the various children are very good. Praise should be given to Kristen Stewart, who is incredible as the young Sam. She is a true winner.
Director Troche has achieved something unique in bringing all this talent together. She has given us a slice of life with a detailed account on the lives of these characters that seem as though we have known them for many years.
There has been much talk of how the film represents (or apparently misrepresents) the American psyche but you don't have to be an American to empathise, or indeed sympathise, with these characters. Like it or not, all families are dysfunctional; we are all damaged in some way and that is the beauty of this film. I may not be a manic depressive, masturbate comatosed boys or have had a questionable relationship with my Barbies but life can be 'distasteful', 'brooding', 'pervy', 'joyless' and 'selfish' just as much as it can be wonderful, uplifting and compassionate. No, not every American suburban family are as impaired as these, nor as a Brit do I see a mirror of myself watching Eastenders or Coronation Street. It's just one point of view and I think Rose Troche has handled such social nuances sensitively and with care. I'm not saying the film is perfect. However, complaining because it makes disturbing or uncomfortable viewing smacks of it hitting a nerve.... If you're seeking a no-brainer, go and see the latest Seann William Scott flick. But if you want an alternative slice of American pie - and a more realistic and universal one at that - feast on this.
The Safety of Objects was Altman-like in its intertwining of stories
but without the messy overlay of voices and sound. The
connections among the families in a suburban neighborhood
created an interesting tension, as crucial information and
backstory emerged. Watch how short stories from a collection are
woven to make a quilt about life in the burbs (and the secret life of
kids, as well as couples)
What I especially found provocative in this film was how some dangerous situations turned out as one would expect, but others teetered on the edge of 'Oh, no,' yet were resolved without harm.
I saw The Safety Of Objects at a cinema club in San Francisco in 2002. It
was then released for one week at theaters, but I was not able to see it
again. I am anxiously awaiting its DVD release in October.
I absolutely loved this film. I liked the tone, the pacing, and of course, the actors. The film had just the right mix of comedy and drama, and I enjoyed every minute of it.
Rose Troche certainly can't be accused to sticking to the same sort of film.
This one is a complete contrast to `Bedrooms and Hallways', which was a
pleasant gay romantic comedy and `Go Fish', which had a gay theme but was
truly weird. The multiple storylines and cross-cutting are rather Altman-esq
but the stories are tied together as in `What's Cooking'. In fact, it's a
drama on the same template. We have four households (and one other guy) all
tied together by the hands of fate.
Although there are some good lines, it's rather a dour film with a jaundiced view of American suburban society (though filmed mostly in Toronto). People are obsessed with their work or their children and seem to receive little happiness from either. In the case of Glenn Close's character Esther Gold she has an uphill battle since her once lively teenage musician son is now in a coma. She cares for him meticulously, constantly talking to him, convinced he will return to consciousness. The children are also dissatisfied with life, or have escaped into their own fantasies (one pre-pubescent lad is conducting an affair with a barbie doll), despite the affluence and parental attention. There is a resonance here with `American Beauty', but not the same lyrical camerawork.
Glenn Close, as the coma boy's mother who enters an endurance contest to appease her aggrieved daughter, is as good as she has ever been, with a kind of understated desperation that expresses perfectly her character's feelings. Patricia Clarkson is also a stand-out as Annette, a recently divorced woman, traded in by her air-head husband for a newer model, who battles on to look after her children, while trying to find some comfort for herself in the bar scene. Jessica Campbell as the daughter gives us a good picture of an angry teenage brat. The men, on the other hand, don't stand out, except perhaps Randy the pool guy (Timothy Olyphant), whose good looks take on a sinister aspect when he becomes involved with Sam, Annette's tomboyish daughter. Dermot Mulroney as Jim Train, a workobsessed lawyer is curiously flat, though Moira Kelly curls her lips nicely as his aggrieved wife.
This could have been a gothic tale, but Troche keeps the story to a fairly mundane level, as befits the suburban landscape. I think American suburbia will hate it far too drab, commonplace and close to the bone. `American Beauty' got away with it because it was so pretty, and Lester and his family really were a bit odd. There's nothing odd about these people they are just as colourless and inadequate as the rest of us. I notice Roger Ebert thought them unlikeable. No, they're just ordinary.
I just watched this film for the first time today, and i can't believe, that I missed this the first time around. It was truly a well acted, and controversial motion picture, much in the tradition of CRASH. The four families whose lives are impacted by a series of events, tell the story. Glenn Close, and Dermott Mulrooney are basically the top names in this movie, but the rest of the cast carries it superbly. How this film did not receive rave notices for both it's direction and screenplay is something that i can not explain. This is a motion picture that will draw you in from the first scene. It is certainly one worth watching over and over again, and I will be looking to purchase my own copy.
Although not as powerful as the (actually unrelated) short stories in the book, Rose Troche has adapted A.M Homes admirably to the big screen... which I was positive couldn't be done. The excellent performances of the entire cast are what hold some of the more thin connections together and although I was personally disappointed by some of the changes Troche made, I understand the necessity to a cohesive narrative. Had I not read the book, I think I would have enjoyed the movie more so I highly recommend viewers and readers who crave great stories about dysfunctional suburbia to check out any and all of my favorite female authors work... beginning with The Safety Of Objects and The End Of Alice.
The Safety of Objects tells the story of four suburban families of neighbors and how they are impacted by a tragic car accident. Glenn Close is perfectly cast as a grieving mother. The cast of this film is so wonderful that The Safety of Objects has a type of Robert Altman feel to it. If you get the chance to see it I would very much recommend overlooking the silly title and watching this engaging film.
It's just what material objects do. They give us the security and
tranquility to go on in life, when all other things appear to be crumbling.
Rose Troche's "The Safety Of Objects" is one of the most interesting and
poetic depictions of everyday life in a suburban "paradise" in the USA.
Being from Mexico, is just another thing that allowed me appreciate it even
more: I saw it like a foreigner, like a witness, without wanting to be part
of the world Troche describes. But its message is so powerful, that I ended
as part of this society that I already knew, but was afraid to accept.
on the novel by A.M. Homes, "The Safety Of Objects" tells different
that reminded me of movies such as "Happiness" or "Grand Canyon", but in a
really different tone.
We are presented early on to Esther Gold (a formidable, as usual, Glenn Close), a woman that has to deal with his sick son in a coma, and with her daughter who is unable to express what he feels about the situation of his beloved brother. We also are introduced to the Trains, a really nice couple that has come to a dead point in which the father, Jim (Dermot Mulroney in a really great performance) is dealing with a job crisis, and with the notion that maybe he doesn't have any goal in his life. His wife, Susan (Moira Kelly) tries to understand him but is unable to do so and starts to blame his husband for his usefulness around the house. Their kids seem like normal kids, but Jake, their son, has a strange obsession with a doll from his sister´s room. Also, we met the Jennings and the Christianson, two more families living near by, and with their own secrets. And there's this strange guy, portrayed by Timothy Olyphant, that seems out of place, until we realize what is his part in this story.
It may be difficult to explain the different stories that Rose Troche carry on without seeing the film, but one detail is certain: it almost seems that in the center of all things is Paul Gold (Joshua Jackson), the comatose son of Glenn Close's character. And as we are seeing this people living their lives, we are also committed to think about our lives. These characters have lots of problems to handle, their own insecurity and all their fears, their unfulfilled lives, their need of attention and support, but in their hearts, they only need safety: the safety to know that tomorrow everything is going to be fine, but only if they allow themselves to breath, and go on.
This film is just a beautiful essay of how everyone in this world tries to feel safe. Jessica Campbell, Joshua Jackson's character's sister, feels safe with the guitar of his brother in his arms. Dermot Mulroney's character starts to feel safe when he goes from goal to goal, trying to find something to feel fine with himself and his own life. It is only when they start to realize what they are doing, and start to accept the things that surround them, that they become aware of the vacuity of the safety that objects bring. And their problems then become real, and manageable.
"The Safety Of Objects" is an excellent motion picture, really. The work of Rose Troche as writer and director are really supreme, and the cast is really great too. Glenn Close shines as the always depressed and distant Esther, and Dermot Mulroney gives maybe the best performance of his life. Joshua Jackson's performance is credible, and Jessica Campbell is just great, along with Alex House, the kid with this "Barbie obsession". Maybe in other countries outside USA, "The Safety Of Objects" could be just another film about life in the 2000. But for Americans, and for seekers of good films around the world, this is a beautiful essay of the triviality of material objects, and the real assumption of our place in the world, our goals in life, and above all, the knowledge that the way to solve our problems is facing our fears and our responsibilities. Life is made of these powerful ideas, it would be a crime to let life pass us by without knowing that we are breathing... and that we have to walk ahead, farther along the way.
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