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MGM Studios DVD presents
The Safety of Objects (2001)

"You know how people are. They think misfortune is contagious."
- Esther Gold (Glenn Close)

Review By: David Krauss   
Published: January 29, 2004

Stars: Glenn Close, Dermot Mulroney, Jessica Campbell, Patricia Clarkson, Joshua Jackson, Moira Kelly, Robert Klein, Timothy Olyphant, Mary Kay Place
Director: Rose Troche

Manufacturer: Wamo
MPAA Rating: R for sexual content and language
Run Time: 02h:00m:50s
Release Date: October 14, 2003
UPC: 027616896520
Genre: drama

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A- BA-C+ D

DVD Review

Ah, suburbia. On the outside, it looks oh-so-normal—people gliding along well-oiled tracks, enjoying their happy marriages, 2.5 children, and healthy incomes. But behind closed doors, in the sanctity of their four-bedroom homes, an entirely different world often exists, where everyday problems seem insurmountable and private demons threaten to destroy the delicate balance they've fought so hard to create.

The Safety of Objects explores such a world in the extreme. I don't know about your neighborhood, but I'm hoping mine isn't anywhere near as messed up, wacked out, and downright creepy as the one writer/director Rose Troche depicts in her film. But then again, how can I (or anyone) really know for sure, when on the surface life looks so tranquil and idyllic? And that's exactly Troche's point. According to her film, an epidemic of suburban angst is raging across America, affecting different households by different degrees. But if yours (or mine) is one of the lucky few to remain immune, The Safety of Objects—through a series of unsettling, far-out events—makes us cherish our bland normality, and pray nothing ever comes along to muck it up.

Unfortunately, many of the lives chronicled in this quirky, strangely comedic, and at times moving adaptation of stories by A.M. Homes are pretty well mucked up from the start—and the others will shortly follow suit. Right up front, we learn a devastating tragedy has irrevocably altered the characters' lives, but the whys and hows remain shrouded in mystery. What we do know is Paul Gold (Joshua Jackson) lies in a brain-dead coma in his upstairs bedroom. His clingy, devoted mother (Glenn Close) tirelessly nurses him, and neglects the rest of her family in the process. Next door, Annette Jennings (Patricia Clarkson) struggles to raise her two daughters (one of whom is retarded) after her husband deserts her, while on an adjacent lot, Jim Train (Dermot Mulroney) goes AWOL from his law firm after he's passed over for partnership. Jim shields his professional shame from his wife and kids, one of whom (Alex House) carries on a pre-pubescent love affair with his sister's Barbie doll, while harboring a hidden attraction for G.I. Joe. Finally, Helen Christianson (Mary Kay Place) craves some sexual adventure after years in a dull marriage, and finds herself coming on to her hunky gardener (Timothy Olyphant)—who, by the way, seems to possess an unhealthy fascination with the neighborhood kids. (I sometimes shake my head at my own neighbors' lives, but this bunch takes the cake.)

And that's only the beginning. As the film progresses, we discover how elements other than proximity connect this quartet of families, as Troche uses flashback fragments and probing close-ups to drop clues and interlock the story's puzzle pieces. Managing so many divergent plot threads can be tricky, but Troche seamlessly cuts between them, while piling layers onto the mystery. The result is a tightly woven fabric that, despite all the odd behavior, sustains interest throughout. In other words, the weirder things get, the tougher it is to look away.

Although The Safety of Objects boasts a formidable cast, it barely caused a ripple on the radar screen when it was released in 2001. The independent nature of the film probably precluded a wide release, but I'd wager the film works better on the small screen anyway, especially when viewed in the comfy domestic confines of the family den. The Safety of Objects is an intimate movie that strikes us, literally, where we live, and watching it in the same surroundings in which the story transpires adds an uncomfortable and identifiable edge. Yet it's too bad Troche didn't bump down the film's aspect ratio just a notch, as 2.35:1 makes the movie seem too theatrical.

All the actors file natural portrayals, and though their characters might not resemble the people next door, they create their own believable cul-de-sac community. Unfortunately, they're often saddled with cartoonish situations that trivialize the film's potent themes. While a sick, surreal comedy undeniably pervades suburban life, The Safety of Objects takes the idea too far, and leaves us shaking our head instead of nodding it.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: MGM has fashioned a high quality anamorphic transfer, filled with vivid contrast, true colors, and accurate fleshtones. Print quality is close to pristine, yet a slight bit of grain preserves the film-like feel.

Image Transfer Grade: A-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno

Audio Transfer Review: The stereo surround track is rather weak, forcing us to strain to hear some of the dialogue. While I kept inching up the volume throughout, it never seemed to alleviate the issue. Ambient sounds come through well, although there's little opportunity for rear channel involvement.

Audio Transfer Grade: C+


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 20 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
2 Other Trailer(s) featuring Casa de Los Babys, Dead Like Me
Packaging: generic plastic keepcase
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual
Layers Switch: 01h:00m:25s

Extras Review: Only a few trailers are included.

Extras Grade: D


Final Comments

Short of spying on the folks next door, The Safety of Objects satisfies our voyeuristic needs and makes us appreciate our own mundane existence. Performances are first-rate, but the bizarre story is often hard to swallow. Still, after seeing this offbeat independent film, you'll never look at your neighbors the same way again.


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