Things We Lost In The Fire

Things We Lost In The Fire

***

Reviewed by: The Exile

Watching Things We Lost In The Fire, Susanne Bier’s gentle examination of vacuums and how we fill them, I could only wonder: Why do we see so little of Benicio Del Toro? It’s been four years since 21 Grams, and aside from a sighting in Sin City, his marvelous, slept-in face has been noticeably missing from movie posters. His brand of handsome may be more difficult to sell, but this movie proves he can play the romantic lead with more credibility than Tom Cruise and significantly less obnoxiousness.

Without Del Toro, in fact, Bier’s English-language debut would be insufferably refined. A manipulative weepie positioned for Oscar consideration (the screeners have already arrived), Things wallows in the tear ducts of Audrey (Halle Berry), a wealthy suburbanite whose perfect husband (David Duchovny, seen in saintly flashback) has been killed. Ready to take his place - and a room in the garage - is his best friend, Jerry (Del Toro), a lawyer-turned-heroin addict who’s remarkably free of issues. (He’s also free of a backstory, which is a different problem.) Yet as Audrey and her children come to depend on Jerry’s presence, his sobriety is threatened by the realisation that he may simply be a substitute in someone else’s life.

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This is a fertile idea, and one that Bier is more than capable of exploring. In her native Danish, in films like Brothers and After the Wedding, the director has displayed a gift for capturing moments of shimmering authenticity. But though Brothers has already plucked many of the same emotional nerves, this time her patient style and intuitive intimacy have been flattened to Hollywood blandness. Struggling to surmount a vapid screenplay (by newcomer Allan Loeb) and Berry’s wet-noodle performance, the movie is simply too tasteful for its own good. Within its glossy, protected borders, only Del Toro’s meaty jowls and wounded eyes feel real.

Reviewed on: 24 Oct 2007
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Halle Berry is a widow trying to come to terms with grief with the help of her hubbie's troubled best pal.
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London 2007

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