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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 Edward Johnson-Ott
1½ stars out of 4

Here's the set-up. The comfortable suburban life of Ruby Baker (Leelee Sobieski) and her kid brother Rhett (Trevor Morgan) is destroyed when their parents die in a car crash while celebrating their 20th anniversary. Soon after, per the terms of a trust, the kids are sent to live with their folks' well-to-do friends Erin Glass (Diane Lane) and her husband Terry (Stellan Skarsgard) in a striking glass home on the Malibu shores.

At first, everything seems peachy. The Glasses purchase suitably hip clothes for Ruby and two, count 'em, two videogame systems for Rhett. Oh sure, they make the teens share one bedroom, but they assure them that it is a temporary measure. Then the estate lawyer (Bruce Dern) informs Ruby and Rhett that they are collectively worth $4 million.

Soon, Ruby begins to notice things. Terry and Erin fight a lot. Overheard conversations indicate that Terry may be in debt to some very nasty men. Erin periodically gets a glassy-eyed stare and her medicine cabinet looks like the controlled substances shelf at Walgreens. Terry drives like a lunatic and has a tendency to lean in close to Ruby, far too close. Could it be that the kids' new guardians are not as pure as they appeared to be?

Well, of course. "The Glass House" is a thriller aimed at teens and, for a while, it looks like it just might work. Once Ruby realizes that there is trouble in Pepperland, a nice cat and mouse game develops between her and the Glasses. But the story degenerates steadily and finally becomes just another horror show with a psycho chasing adolescents. Such a shame.

Having Leelee Sobieski (I still think of her as Helen Hunt Jr.) face off against Stellan Skarsgard is a great idea. She is one of the smartest young actors working today and he comes off as both intelligent and scary even when cast in a sympathetic part. But what's the point of shipping the brother and the wife to separate parts of the house for much of the film, with the boy plugged into videogame nirvana and the wife in a chemical one?

Further, why in the world did the Glasses make two teenagers share one bedroom in the first place? Con artists with a plan as elaborate as the one concocted by this pair would surely know that the importance of keeping up appearances. And Terry Glass would certainly make a better attempt at suppressing his dirty old man impulses.

Ah well, another week in 2001, another new release that starts off strong, then goes straight down the drain. What a lousy year.

Copyright 2001 Edward Johnson-Ott

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