The Safety of Objects
4 out of 5 stars
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There are heavy echoes of both Todd Haynes and Paul Thomas Anderson in this deeply emotional weaving of several suburban tales--most notably Far From Heaven, Safe, Magnolia ... and even Haynes' underground Karen Carpenter biopic Superstar. The story is about a group of neighbours whose lives are intertwined by a tragedy we won't fully understand until the end of the film, when we finally see how it explains the characters' actions now. In a nutshell, Esther (Close) is struggling to make up for past mistakes with her son (Jackson) by doing something outrageous for her daughter (Campbell). Jim (Mulroney) is a lawyer who barely knows his own wife (Kelly) and kids. Annette (Clarkson) is going through a nasty divorce. Helen (Place) approaches life with organisation and dry humour, and knows she needs a drastic change. And the neighbourhood gardener (Olyphant) has an achingly dark secret.

The interwoven structure both of the narrative and the timeline makes the film genuinely gripping as we discover the true nature of each character's neurosis. They're all seriously disturbed; and the more we get to know them, it's not easy to feel much sympathy. But the script cleverly draws us in anyway, with humour, raw emotion and tricky plotting that hints that something terrible's about to happen ... intimately linked with the past tragedy. This is stunningly sure-handed filmmaking, gradually bringing the fragmented, sometimes confusing structure into focus ... even though it gets somewhat intense and overwrought at the end. The performances, young and old, are beautiful--brilliant casting draws on each actor's strengths in such a striking way that you can't imagine anyone else playing the characters. Close gets the film's most powerful sequences, while Mulroney, Clarkson, Olyphant and Place also shine in layered roles. And the overriding message is an important one--that we've become far too distracted by the importance of things, whatever they might be.

cert 15 themes, language, innuendo 11.Aug.03

dir-scr Rose Troche
with Glenn Close, Dermot Mulroney, Patricia Clarkson, Mary Kay Place, Timothy Olyphant, Jessica Campbell, Joshua Jackson, Moira Kelly, Robert Klein, Kristen Stewart, Alex House, Aaron Ashmore
release US 7.Mar.03; UK 15.Aug.03
02/US 2h01

Emotional catharsis: Clarkson and Jackson

close mulroney place

23rd Shadows Awards

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2003 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall