SAFETY OF OBJECTS, THE
Paul Gold (Joshua Jackson) is in a coma in his bedroom, lovingly nursed by his mother Esther (Glenn Close), who has distanced herself from her husband (Robert Klein) and teenage daughter Julie (Jessica Campbell). Neighbour Annette Jennings (Patricia Clarkson) is struggling to survive with her two children, whilst in the midst of a messy divorce. Down the street, lawyer Jim Train (Dermot Mulroney) who has just been passed over for promotion, realises that his wife Susan (Moira Kelly) and two children function very well without him. Helen Christianson (Mary Kay Place) is bored by her husband and starts to flirt with the neighbourhood gardener, Randy (Timothy Olyphant), who is outgoing on the surface, but harbours dark secrets.
Review by Louise Keller:
A kaleidoscope portraying the interlocking lives of four families, The Safety of Objects takes an intensely personal look at the characters who live with their daily frustrations, guilt, regrets and hang ups. Wonderful performances engage us for much of the time, but the storyline (Rose Troche’s has selected seven stories from A.M. Homes’ short stories and woven them into a dense tapestry of human emotions) does not hold our attention for two hours. Much of time, the action becomes just plain dull and repetitive. Troche develops the characters well, and through their everyday lives we discover their secrets, their innermost thoughts and through flashback sequences, learn how and why they behave as they do. A revealing observation of human behaviour unravels, and we slowly begin to feel as though we know these people. A superb ensemble cast breathes life into these characters, headed by Glenn Close’s powerful portrayal of Esther, a mother trying to come to terms with the impact her comatose son has brought to the family. “There’s security in the fact that the worst has happened,” says Esther, who is clinging to her son as a lifeline in her dysfunctional family. We understand the professional disappointment for Jim Train, whose lack of a promotion becomes the catalyst for change. Then there are the marital difficulties, the squabbling children, the rebellious teenager, the lonely woman, the ex spouse’s rejection by his children, the young boy’s sexual obsession with his sister’s doll. Just like in real life, small triggers prompt big explosions. I like Dermot Mulroney’s Jim Train and Patricia Clarkson’s Annette Jennings is compellingly vulnerable. Timothy Olyphant’s Randy is a hauntingly unsettling character, who like many of the others will stay with you when the film ends. There are potently moving moments and much of the characterisations ring very true. But the film is far too long, and the parts are far more effective than the whole. The climax and ensuing conclusion satisfy, although it seems as though all the ends are tidied up far too neatly. Life is never really like that. The experience does, however, allows us to reflect on the fact that lives easily fall into ruts, and open our eyes to recycling the objects and symbols that form our security blankets.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
The Safety of Objects begins in a low key fashion, unusually unengaging with its tumble- bucket of snapshots of neighbouring families in various states of distraction, distance and dysfunction. We assume that close ups of disconnected items in a scene – a pair of sneakers walking up the stairs, say - will develop meaning; they are meant to heighten our expectations. But they end up disappointing us with no payoff. I found myself irritated and bored by the structure of the film and its inert style, which continues the way it begins, juxtaposing scenes of apparent profundity but without a key to approaching or understanding them. While characters are well observed and superbly delivered by a class A cast, the script has them performing perfunctory tricks of dysfunction for our ever deepening depression. Some of the devices used include ‘thought-over’ narration by a few of the characters, including a Barbie doll, the object of a young boy’s fantasies. This object is perhaps the only real connection to the film’s title and, presumably, its theme. But like so much of the film, Barbie is a disjointed element, like one of several short stories that are connected only by a literary device; which is exactly where the film comes from. The editing – more likely the desired structure – makes most scenes feel isolated, starting and ending in a vacuum. It’s ultimately a giant jigsaw which we are too close to identify, until the final 15 minutes. But here, the revelations totally unbalance the rest of the dramatic lead up in favour of a single traumatic event that enables us to slot some of the emotions into place. But by then patience has run out. I also found the ending quite false, a schmalzy ‘happy together’ scene that devalues the film’s profoundly earnest intentions.
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SAFETY OF OBJECTS, THE (M15+)
CAST: Glenn Close, Dermot Mulroney, Joshua Jackson, Robert Klein, Patricia Clarkson, Moira Kelly, Mary Kay Place, Timothy Olyphant
PRODUCER: Dorothy Berwin, Christine Vachon
DIRECTOR: Rose Troche
SCRIPT: Rose Troche
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Enrique Chediak
EDITOR: Geraldine Peroni
MUSIC: Emboznik, Brb Morrison, Charles Nieland, Nance Nieland
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Andrea Stanley
RUNNING TIME: 121 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Niche
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: June 5, 2003