Sunday, February 29, 2004

House Of Sand And Fog

* * ½ (out of four)
Seen 27 February 2004 at the Arlington Capitol #2 (second-run)

It's sad to see good performances in service of an idiot plot. I can't really complain about anything the actors do in this movie; Jennifer Connelly and Ben Kingsley are both outstanding, and though I'm not quite so sure I see Shohreh Aghdashloo as an Oscar nominee, she's well above-average.

But, man, it's frustrating to watch. It starts out with an interesting hook, with Connelly's Kate losing her house because of a county tax screw-up, though she was admittedly complicit, ignoring her mail. When Kingsley's Iranian emigre buys it at auction, they both have the right to see the house as theirs, and both are deeply flawed characters. At first, it's a movie without good guys and bad guys.

Enter Ron Eldard as the sheriff's deputy who helped evict Kate and takes a liking to her. He's the guy who winds up pushing the movie into cheap melodrama, taking everything too far, taking a delicate situation and giving it a forceful shake. The tragedy of the last reel thus goes from sad to ridiculous, more deserving of snickers than tears.

That's not the only issue; it's also one of those movies where you wonder what these characters are doing when they're not involved in this plot. Kate has a job as a housecleaner that seems to evaporate; Behrani starts out working two jobs, one of which you see him quit, but both menial. There is a long scene where it is suggested that he is deceiving his family about what he does for work, but it's never followed up on, despite possibly being a good parallel for how Kate is lying to her own family.

I guess that sums the movie up - wasted potential. There's good stuff to work with, but screenwriter/director Vadim Perelman just doesn't get it right.

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