starring Jennifer Connelly, Ben Kingsley, Ron Eldard, Frances Fisher
screenplay by Vadim Perelman and Shawn Lawrence Otto
directed by Vadim Perelman
by Walter Chaw Based on an award-winning novel by Andres Dubus III, son of Canadian novelist and short-story writer Andre Dubus, Vadim Perelman's hyphenate debut House of Sand and Fog is difficult to gauge on its own merits, given that the typically invasive grandiosity of another abominable James Horner score sinks the picture almost by itself. With no moment uncommented-upon by Horner's bank of weeping violins and no lovely Roger Deakins tableau unmarred by Horner's insatiable taste for schmaltz, the picture is a prime example of two things: the prestige picture/Oscar grab; and the film of grand emotions that decides to trust its composer over its cast and screenplay. The similarities between House of Sand and Fog and In the Bedroom (a film based on Dubus Sr.'s short story "Killings") are obvious, but where the latter allows its cast to breathe, House of Sand and Fog smothers Ben Kingsley and Jennifer Connelly in a fatal dose of Horner's saccharine ministrations. In Horner's defense, however, the extended climax during which a vein-popping Kingsley is allowed too much rein is awful without help.