starring Glenn Close, Dermot Mulroney, Joshua Jackson, Jessica Campbell
written for the screen and directed by Rose Troche
by Walter Chaw Deserving of notice if only for its loaded cast and some very fine editing work and cinematography (by Geraldine Peroni and Enrique Chediak, respectively) by turns revelatory and breathtaking, Rose Troche's The Safety of Objects is another take on American Beauty that, unfortunately, ends with the same broad shots at the same barn sides. Structured out-of-time around a car accident that left a teen (Joshua Jackson) in a coma, the picture marks the circular trajectories of a carousel of characters as they intersect in the concentric rings of suburban hell. Jim (Dermot Mulroney) has been passed over for a partnership in his law firm, sending him on the kind of bohemian quest undertaken by Kevin Spacey's Lester Burnham, while Esther (Glenn Close) takes on the maternal responsibilities of assimilation and loss. Annette (Patricia Clarkson) is a single mother nursing a lifetime of humiliation and sexual frustration, and Julie (Jessica Campbell), the comatose kid's sister, finds herself in the tremulous position at the precipice of a younger Annette. Meanwhile, Jim's pubescent son Jake carries on a semi-destructive relationship with a Barbie doll. Based on a collection of short stories by A.M. Homes, The Safety of Objects adheres to very literary doubling tropes, some eye-rolling, character-defining names ("Train" for the mover, "Gold" for the "good as" mom), a certain overwritten quality that occasionally intoxicates with its artificiality, and enough exceptional performances to almost, but not quite, drown out the growing suspicion that there's an essential emptiness at the heart of the whole disappointingly obvious exercise.
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