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The Glass House

movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: The Glass House

Starring: Leelee Sobieski, Stellan Skarsgard
Director: Daniel Sackheim
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 111 Minutes
Release Date: September 2001
Genres: Suspense, Thriller

*Also starring: Trevor Morgan, Diane Lane, Kip Pardue, Rita Wilson, Christopher Noth, Michael O'Keefe, Bruce Dern

Review by Harvey Karten
No Rating Supplied

"The Glass House" may be a by-the-numbers thriller with the audience way ahead of the characters, but since Stellan Skarsgard is the scariest actor of his generation, the film is well worth viewing. Skarsgard turns a hackneyed plot into a nailbiter, at least until toward the end he is transformed from a guy who can evoke terror in his would-be victims simply by acting normal to someone who becomes a generic maniac and therefore almost laughable. If Daniel Sackheim ("Law and Order," "The X Files") directed the entire movie with a Hitchcockian cool instead of turning it into a teen horror pic in the closing half hour, "The Glass House" would be quite a respectable thriller, one to admire for pace, acting and appropriate restraint.

In fact we in the audience might be willing to overlook some plot flaws that render the film less credible than it could be. For example after the Ruby Baker (Leelee Sobieski) and her kid brother Rhett (Trevor Morgan) suffer the tragic loss of their parents, who crashed the family car after attending a function, the kids are sent per trust agreement to the luscious Malibu digs of the Bakers' well-to-do friends Erin Glass (Diane Lane) and her husband Terry (Stellan Skarsgard). The first thing the adults do is to assign the two to the same room, although there's enough space in the glass house (or the Glass House if you prefer) to fit half the population of the soon-to-be homeless Afghanis. This is particularly inappropriate since Ruby is a 16-year-old high-school student and a sensitive soul at that, one who has trouble mixing in with her more flippant peers in her new Malibu school. Why wouldn't Ruby, who acts mature beyond her years and in fact looks every bit a real woman when dressed up in black, question her guardians about this, particularly when, later on, the adults do in fact decide to move her into separate quarters?

"The Glass House" is a fairly conventional story about a pair of adolescents who are compelled to live with virtual strangers after the death of their parents, guardians who become suspect soon enough not only for the strange room accommodations but because Terry, under the guise of taking his new charge to a party, escorts her to a plush restaurant instead and hits on her as soon as they retreat to the car. If Terry had his eyes on the gold mine that this girl represents, would they shift toward the attributes of the kid's flesh so conspicuously thereby eroding the young woman's trust? As Ruby, by coincidence, watches an intense fight between Erin and Terry and, by coincidence once again, happens to listen to Terry's incriminating dialogue both on the house phone and in his office, she is certain that she and her brother are living on borrowed time and take the needed action to extricate themselves from their dilemma.

Without Skarsgard, who has excelled in such work as the remarkable "Breaking the Waves," almost putting Ray Milland to shame by his role as a drunk in "Aberdeen," this movie would be forgettable. With him--and with the help of the capable Bruce Dern as the Baker family financial adviser--the film becomes not a must-see but a worthwhile entry to the year's commercial thrillers.

Copyright 2001 Harvey Karten

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