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THE GLASS HOUSE

Directed by Daniel Sackheim (2001, Columbia Pictures)
Starring Leelee Sobieski, Diane Lane, Stellan Starsgaard, and Bruce Dern

Two teenage orphans adapt to their new, more rigid, guardians.

 

 

1 star+

February 2nd, 2002 on DVD  
   

Good acting by the younger cast and eerily-enough production make this an almost-adequate thriller movie.  Unfortunately, the plot lacked many things to make it truly interesting, especially as it neared the expected payoff.

I almost grudgingly gave this movie two stars, but it wasn't worth it.  It certainly wasn't great, and it was bordering on bad.  But I did enjoy some of it (and not only Sobieski's much-revealed cleavage).  Ruby was smart enough to figure things out.  But everything she did was sabotaged because the Glass's had too many contacts.  

She was right to trust her feelings when Terry Glass was watching her change, took an interest in her bikini-clad body, took her out for dinner, and leaned provocatively over her to fasten her seatbelt.  But for the most part, it was the director who made those parts spooky, not the actor who played Terry.  

Ruby and Rhett lost their parents in a car crash, and they were assigned to their guardians, the Glass's.  The move to Malibu goes as expected, with a few bumps in the road, but more-or-less alright.  Strange things go on, but most of these are perfectly explainable.  These people are just weird!  They seem to be hovering right over the kids, spoiling them with video games and clothing, and listening in on phone conversations and their locations.

What the movie really lacks is motivation.  Sure Terry was in debt, but what prompted him to have Ruby's parents killed in a car with faulty brakes?  Did he think he could swindle the bank out of their inheritance so easily?  What prompted his wife to start on drugs, so that she became an addict?  Why did Ruby's lawyer divulge her concerns to the Glass's?  He could have been much more discrete about inquiring into the situation, even if he didn't believe her.  He obviously told Terry about the social worker's visit, too, so he could create separate rooms for the two kids and remove all the drugs from the medicine cabinet.  For that matter, why put the kids in a single room at all?  He shouldn't have made Ruby suspicious by doing such suspicious things in the first place.  

Ruby's lesson about things not being what they seemed was pretty much wasted here.  As she decides not to trust the car parked outside, it doesn't matter, because the lawyer arrives.  Then, when his betrayal seems like it could really hurt, the loan sharks arrive, and kill him, thinking he is the reason why they didn't get their money.  

Though Ruby started out being so smart, catching on to clues and even going so far as to steal the car before fate intervened (why didn't the police press charges, or even ask Terry for ID?), by the end she was as typical for a thriller female as possible.  She shrieks at the drugged up (possibly dead?) woman who ends up on her bed, but doesn't leave the house at that time.  She calls the loan shark (smart), but waits until Terry arrives back before retrieving her brother and trying to leave.  By then, it's too late.  How about calling the police instead?  By then, Rhett is also paranoid.  Was it because the Glass's drugged Ruby up for a month?  The first time she tried to steal him away, he fought against her.  The next time, he's almost already packed.  What changed his mind?

Then there's Ruby's friends.  They complain that she hasn't called them for a month, and write her off.  Did they ever call her?  Did Ruby or Rhett ever get to answer the phone?  Apparently Ruby had a cell phone in her other school.  Didn't she get to bring it with her, even if she had to keep it off at the new school?  

In any case, the lawyer gets his due for breaking Ruby's confidence, in that he's killed.  Ruby barely lets out a grimace for him, though -probably the first murder she's ever witnessed.  And Terry is also killed, though like a typical villain, he keeps coming back to life.  His loan sharks take him on a "ride", using the car that he sabotaged for the kids.  I thought he said he needed one live child to get the money.  But by sabotaging the car, he could probably have lost both of them.  Then the money would have been turned over to the state, not him.  But because the car has no brakes, it first smashes into the sports car the other loan shark is driving (couldn't that car outrun the one that kept ramming him?  It probably could have handled 300 km/h!), causing it to be destroyed by a passing truck, and then drives over a cliff.  Terry survives.  He knocks out a police officer, steals his gun, and knows that the kids are in the police car up on the road.  So he goes to them, but Ruby is able to start the police car (when did the policeman have time to put his keys in the sunvisor?) and run Terry over!  

The lack of follow-up is even worse than the lack of motivation.  It was stated repeatedly that the kids would become custody of the state if something happened to the Glass's.  Will they now be separated?  Will their money be frozen because of the suspicious circumstances?  Will Ruby call her friends, now?

This is too bad, because the movie started out alright.  It was never great, but the characters seemed to have some depth, and the story of a rebellious teen whom the guardian seemed to be interested in sexually and monetarily could have been interesting.  The production values were also impressive, which almost fooled me into giving this movie a passing mark.  If only.

As a DVD, there were no impressive extras.  Short interviews with cast and director that were way too short, a deleted scene with no explanation as to why it was deleted, and commentary that was even more boring than the middle of the movie, lead me to ask, what's the point?

 
   

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