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The Safety Of Objects
cast: Glenn Close, Joshua Jackson, Dermot Mulroney, Patricia Clarkson, and Timothy Olyphant

director: Rose Troche

115 minutes (15) 2001
widescreen ratio 2.35:1
EV DVD Region 2 rental or retail
Also available to rent or buy on video

RATING: 4/10
reviewed by John Percival
The Safety Of Objects is focused on four households in suburban America: in one house, a comatose Paul Gold (Joshua Jackson) is nursed by his mother Esther (Glenn Close), while next-door, Annette Jennings (Patricia Clarkson) is struggling to bring up two children and divorce her husband. Nearby, Jim Train (Dermot Mulroney) a dedicated lawyer is passed over for promotion and realises he has no purpose at work or at home. Then there is Helen Christianson who is sick of being taken for granted by her husband and bored of her life. Plus the resident kids and local handyman all have problems and tensions that are soon bought to the surface.
   My problem with this film is I don't get it! I just don't understand what is going on. An attempt has been made to take several stories and pull them together into a single narrative but the result is confused and extremely difficult to follow. Much of how the adults behave makes very little sense such as lawyer Jim who gives up his whole life to help neighbour Esther to win a competition. It is too much of a leap for us to believe he would walk away from his job and family to do this. Why is he not fighting for a more vital role in his family? Surely they mean more to him? Unless there is some sort of mental illness in his family as Jim's teenage boy is going through his adolescent sexual awakening by talking (and more) with a Barbie doll and the doll talks back!
   The main current of the film revolves around Paul's comatose state, which is as a result of a car accident and how a number of the other characters were involved. While Paul is being nursed constantly, everyone else is dealing with the personal issues from their involvement. This includes the local handyman Randy whose bizarre and troubling behaviour is explained eventually.
   The filming style has been strongly influenced by the likes of American Beauty (1999) or The Ice Storm (1997) with the sterile surroundings of a middle class American suburb but the characters lack almost any depth. In fact the actors are almost totally unchallenged by the script, they just seem to be passing the time waiting for something else. Glenn Close puts in the best performance as her character has more pain to work with. Joshua Jackson seems have to got the best deal of all, apart from the appalling miming to the song which runs throughout the film, all of his dialogue is in flashback and everything else is at home in a coma. There are so many characters in this movie with so many problems that it is almost impossible to follow each thread. I spent the first half of the movie trying to work out who belonged to which family. At the end, when everything is rosy and everyone has been completed their personal journeys then only person not to have got anything out of this is me!
   This film is trying to build on territory where Oscars have been won before and it could have done with the quality of the cast. In trying to be clever all it has produced is a frustrating mess that I would rather forget.
   Extras available on the DVD include some curious soundbites from the cast and an analysis of the characters. To understand who is 'what, why and when' it may be useful to watch the analysis before the movie as you will not care afterwards.

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