With a couple of dozen characters, each with their own, overlapping stories,
Rose Troche's exquisitely constructed THE SAFETY OF OBJECTS almost defies
review. What is certain is that the saddest part of the movie comes in its
conclusion, when we are forced to say good-bye to these newfound friends about
whom, in just two brief hours, we've grown to care so much. Although none of
the stories sizzles, the collective impact of this slice of suburban life is
undeniably strong. The large and talented cast holds the audience spellbound as
the film moves seamlessly among the characters.
Centering on four families and their acquaintances, the story at first seems to
be full of zombies who are always thinking, "Whatever." Quickly though we come
to realize that each has a lot going on just below the surface.
Esther Gold (Glenn Close) is a caring mother whose son, Paul (Joshua Jackson),
has been turned into a vegetable by a car accident. In flashbacks we see Paul
in happier times when his band played at a local bar, where his girlfriend, an
older woman and neighbor named Annette Jennings (Patricia Clarkson), used to
come to meet him. Esther is about to participate in an endurance contest to win
an automobile, much like the real-life event chronicled in the mesmerizing
documentary, HANDS ON A HARDBODY, one of the very best movies that most people
have never seen. Esther is trying to win the contest for her daughter Julie
(Jessica Campbell), who has some issues and secrets that we'll find out about
Jim Train (Dermot Mulroney) is a lawyer who works every day in the city, which
gives time for his wife, Susan (Moira Kelly), to meet other men, supposedly
innocently, as their kids play together or they change her tires. Jim doesn't
know what he wants in life after his firm presents him with a plaque rather than
a partnership. At home, he is the anti-fix-it man since everything he touches
Jim's son, Jake (Alex House), is easily the quirkiest character. Almost a
teenager, Jake has an intense, quasi-sexual relationship with a small
Barbie-like doll, who talks back to him. He appears to be about to ditch the
doll for a cute girl next door who might be willing to play doctor with him.
Helen Christianson (Mary Kay Place) is a religious devotee of healthy eating,
which drives her family crazy, forcing them to hide the Pop Tarts. Currently
going through a mid-life crisis, Helen has her eyes on Randy (Timothy Olyphant),
the young hunk who does her gardening. Annette flirts with him as well.
And these are just a few of the people and their stories, each of which is
amazingly well developed and acted.
In perhaps the movie's most telling scene, Jim escapes from his suffocating
family at a restaurant so that he can woof down a double martini at the bar.
While there, he runs into Annette, who immediately senses what is going on.
"Jim, it's the life you've chosen," she tells him. "Don't make like it's not
yours." THE SAFETY OF OBJECTS speaks to all of us who have had the urge to run
away, if not physically, then at least emotionally.
THE SAFETY OF OBJECTS runs a fast 2:01. It is rated R for "sexual content and
language" and would be acceptable for teenagers.
Copyright © 2003 Steve Rhodes