Mar 18, 2015

Review: The Safety of Objects (2001)

Based on several A. M. Homes short stories, The Safety of Objects is an independent film directed and written by Rose Troche. It's one of those ensemble cast drama films that feature intertwining stories with a host of different characters, so you better be ready with that concentration cap if you plan on watching it. I was a bit wary of the low critic score before I started watching it, but I was pretty interested in seeing what Glenn Close could do.

One of the more notable features of this film is that it's Kristen Stewart's big screen debut as a child actress. Well, as a credited child actress anyway. I mean, it's not like being "Ring Toss Girl" in The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas is all that important to her or anyone else. She's moved on to bigger and better things such as starring in young adult vampire film franchises and winning big, blocky C├ęsar Awards.


Genre: drama
Directed by: Rose Troche
Produced by: Dorothy Berwin, Christine Vachon, Stephen Evans, etc.
Written by: Rose Troche
Music by: Barb Morrison, Charles Nieland, Nance Nieland
Running time: 121 minutes
Production company: Infilm, Killer Films, The Ontario Film Development Corporation, etc.
Distributed by: IFC Films, Killer Films, Entertainment Film Distributors, etc.
Country: United Kingdom, United States, Canada
Language: English
Budget: N/A
Box office: $319,299 (Worldwide)

IMDb entry
Rotten Tomatoes entry

Starring: Glenn Close, Dermot Mulroney, Jessica Campbell, Patricia Clarkson, Joshua Jackson, Moira Kelly, Robert Klein, Timothy Olyphant, Mary Kay Place, Kristen Stewart, Alex House, Charlotte Arnold, Andrew Airlie, Stephanie Anne Mills, Angela Vint, Aaron Ashmore 



Paul Gold (Joshua Jackson) was involved in a serious car accident that has put him in a coma. His mother Esther (Glenn Close) spends most of her time caring for him when in realty there isn't any real hope of him ever waking up again. His father Howard (Robert Klein) has moved on and his sister Julie (Jessica Campbell) desperately craves her mother's attention. Unbeknownst to the Gold family, Paul's accident has touched the lives of many others in the neighbourhood.


The lesson that The Safety of Objects wants to impart on its viewers is that we shouldn't place so much importance on the objects that we have. Characters in the film make the mistake of hiding behind the objects they love and lose sight of what really matters; people. Paul Gold has become an object for his mother Esther to hide behind as she inadvertently neglects the rest of her family. Jim Train (Dermot Mulroney) makes that same mistake but with his job which he feels is his main purpose. Bring in money and provide things for his family when that's not what they truly need or want.

There are tons of other examples that I could use that involve actual physical objects such as Barbie dolls, cars and guitars, but I won't. Rose Troche has already hammered her anti-materialistic message into my head, so I don't want to add onto the hammering that's already been done here. To put it simply, Troche just tries way too hard in conveying her message. As a result, The Safety of Objects ends up heavily lacking in subtlety. 

Not only that, but Troche seems to insist on making sure that the tone in TSoO is continuously drab and depressing. Everything has to be ultra serious and everything has to be a big deal. What ends up happening is that the build up towards the big climactic scenes in TSoO feel a bit lacking since Troche hasn't changed wavelengths even once throughout these 121 minutes of suburban sorrow.

It's exhausting when everything that happens has just as much gravity as what happened right before. It's the equivalent of getting punched in the back of the head and then in the gut. You're already unconscious so you don't even feel the punch to the gut anymore. You could honestly compare this to a Michael Bay Transformers movie that tries to blow your socks off with every single action sequence instead of progressively building towards a genuine payoff.

Still, what carries this film are the good performances. Glenn Close is incredible honestly and she's especially good during the film's climax. Just that is worth seeing. Her character seems to be lost for most of the film until she finally does what she has to do to be able to move on in what is quite a powerful scene. Patricia Clarkson is as reliable as always and I have to say that I was quite impressed with Timothy Olyphant. Dermot Mulroney is also quite good too.

The ending is a little too sappy for my liking and feels especially ill-fitting due to the angsty and downcast tone from before. While Rose Troche uses a jackhammer instead of a regular hammer to get her message across, she does get great performances out of all her actors. You could easily call The Safety of Objects the Crash of suburbia without the racism. It's still a perfectly watchable film that just seems to be trying a bit too hard.



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