The Safety of Objects

Adapted from a book of stories by A.M. Homes, this third feature by Rose Troche is a series of interlocking tales about dysfunctional families and individuals living in one suburban neighborhood. Three weeks after seeing this film, I could barely remember it, and given Troche's precise grasp of character and milieu in her much more cheerful Go Fish, it's difficult to fathom why this movie is so flat and unconvincing. Maybe the stories work individually on the page, but collapsed together as they are here, and played like too many wild cards, they come across as contrived and forced; not even the highly stylized opening, which introduces us to the various families by way of a few dollhouses, makes the contrivances any more palatable. Among the sad characters are a mother (Glenn Close) doggedly nursing her comatose son while her teenage daughter (Jessica Campell) enters her in a silly radio contest in a mall, an alienated lawyer (Dermot Mulroney) who winds up playing cheerleader to the mother in the contest, a teenager (Alex House) in love with his sister's Barbie doll, and the bored kidnapper of a little boy. The actors—including Mary Kay Place, Robert Klein, Moira Kelly, Patricia Clarkson, Kristen Stewart, and Timothy Olyphant—are skillful, but what they're given to work with mainly defeats them. 120 min.

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