Saturday, March 29, 2014

The Glass House


I am simply desolate that I have been unable to keep my adoring public as up to date on my fabulous US tour raising money for WTC/Pentagon disaster relief as I would like. It's just been agony racing from venue to venue - the publicity junkets, the posing for photos with adorable orphans, the selling of Mrs. Norman Maine collectibles in the lobby - I just haven't had a moment to myself! I will attempt to catch you all up over the next few days. 

When I last checked in, it was just before my Nome concert at the lovely 'Board of Trade' saloon on the edge of the ice blue arctic sea. The concert went well, even if some of the local Inuits kept yelling at me to do something called a 'Tater Dance'. I hadn't had time to stop at the A & P for spuds so I stuck to the fabulous modern interpretive moves of Lester on Lister my salute to modern bacteriology. The Xanthamonas maltophilia number went over especially well as I dropped all those aqua sequined Nerf batons to simulate ciliary motion. 

I barely had time to catch my breath before catching a plane to Detroit as I was due to perform at Happy Hassid Acres nursing facility in Windsor, Ontario. Things were fine until the limo got to the Detroit/Windsor border crossing. The stepped up security required the border guards to open all thirty-seven pieces of my Louis Vuitton and display my unmentionables in public. They then confiscated several of my Norman cremains Emmet Kelly figures claiming that they were, quite possibly, exploding statuary and a danger to US/Canadian relations. My attorneys are working on having Norman returned from a warehouse in Toronto. Anyway, Cindy from the Happy Hassid home along with her crew of handsome young men finally rescued me from an international border incident and settled me in a hotel. 

After a stiff drink, I had a few hours to kill, and, as it was Tuesday September 25th, I decided to go to the pictures as this was the day that all proceeds were being donated to disaster relief. The local Cineplex did not have much of a selection so I opted for the film starting next which turned out to be Daniel Sackheim's The Glass House with Leelee Sobieski and Stellan Skarsgard. I had been under the impression that this was some sort of documentary about a modernist American composer but it turned out to be a simple gothic tale, tarted up in modern imagery. 

Leelee plays Ruby Baker, a teen skating on the edge of trouble by staying out late, cribbing papers and other quasi-delinquent behaviors. One night, her perfect parents (Rita Wilson and Michael O'Keefe in somewhat silly cameos) are killed in an automobile accident. Ruby, and her little brother Rhett (Trevor Morgan), are sent to live with Terry and Erin Glass, old friends of their parents, who are named as guardians of choice in the will. Terry is played by Stellan Skarsgard, the Danish actor (with fairly flawless accent), as a smoldering bogeyman and Erin (Diane Lane), acts as if she's from another planet so you know it's not going to be too long before it becomes apparent that these charming new 'parents' are more interested in the sizable inheritance than in the kids' welfare. This lovely quartet sets up housekeeping in an incredible concrete and glass mansion in Malibu that looks like a cross between an airport terminal and an X-ray suite and much is made of the symbolism of glass and reflection. 

Unfortunately, the plot, as it advances, is cribbed from a combination of Charles Dickens and every cheap gothic novel of the mid century. Put a large frilly negligee on Sobieski and a frock coat and top hat on Skarsgard and you'd have a cover suitable for most of the works of Georgette Heyer or Victoria Holt. The writer (Wesley Strick, responsible for other such literary films as The Saint and Wolf) pours on ludicrous complication after complication to keep the kids entrapped in the house and the outside world deaf to their pleas. By the time we get the mob involved, it's all over in terms of any hope of sense or sensibility and the finale, involving a number of car crashes and chases in the Malibu canyons, is completely paint by numbers.

Sobieski actually turns in a reasonable performance as young Ruby. She tackles the role earnestly and gives her all to her big scenes, even when they're pretty pointless. Trevor Morgan, as her little brother, also has his moments. Most of the adults in the cast, however, seem to have been directed as if they were performing Victorian melodramas on the Orpheum circuit with big gesticulations and much rolling of eyes. Skarsgard is the worst offender and it's saying a lot when he makes Bruce Dern, as the family lawyer, look restrained in their big showdown. Skarsgard does have a couple of good moments early in the film, before he goes over the top and there's a nifty in joke involving Hamlet (the role that made him famous as a Scandinavian stage actor). Diane Lane, under seen in recent years, is not going to rejuvenate her career with her role as his addled wife. She's so vacant, that when she departs the scene, she's not missed. 

The film is competently made and directed and has all the buttons in place to be a proper Hollywood suspense film package, but it's ultimately empty and has the staying power of the proverbial Chinese meal. 

Significant champagne bottle. Teen girls cruising the valley. Nintendo games. Harold Bloom reference. Gratuitous Ferrari Testarossa destruction. Fake diabetes. Suspicious loan officer. Gratuitous thunderstorms. Ominous home burglar detection systems. 

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