Rose Troche

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Concussion Review


Good

A sharply observed odyssey of middle-aged self-discovery, this strikingly offbeat film may feel a little vague in its approach, but it carries a strong kick. And watching the central character work out what she really wants in life is thoroughly involving, finding universal truths in a situation that few in the audience can, or would be willing to, identify with.

It begins with a blow to the head in a playground accident, after which 42-year-old Abby (Robin Weigert) begins feeling unsettled in her life. She's tired of her high-maintenance kids and is more aware of the growing distance between her and her wife Kate (Julia Fain Lawrence). Then her home-decorating colleague Justin (Johnathan Tchaikovsky) makes a suggestion: if all she really needs is intimacy, Abby could make a reasonable living as a prostitute. So she gives it a go, stipulating that she meets her clients for coffee before anything else happens. But things take an unexpected turn when her friend Sam (Maggie Siff) hires her services.

Writer-director Stacie Passon gives the film a warmly comical tone, undercutting the serious premise with acerbic humour and small surprises. There's an unusual honesty to everything, as Passon and her cast refuse to play the usual Hollywood game: these women are in charge of their sex lives in ways rarely seen on-screen. They're also unusually complex characters who do things they know they probably shouldn't, but they carry on in an effort to make sense of their lives. This approach makes it impossible to just sit back and watch: we get intimately involved in every decision each person makes.

Continue reading: Concussion Review

The Safety of Objects Review


Weak
For all of Robert Altman's greatness, his lasting legacy to future filmmakers may be the wrongheaded assumption that anyone can successfully weave together sprawling, multi-character stories into a coherent thematic experience. With the exception of a scant few disciples (headed by the visionary Paul Thomas Anderson), these spiritual and technical descendents of Altman's films, too often hampered by schematic plotting and clumsy melodrama, routinely turn out to be wobbly facsimiles of Altman's operatic, multi-layered storytelling. The latest release that falls into said category is Rose Troche's The Safety of Objects, an uneven tale (based on the short stories of A.M. Homes) of intertwined suburban families dealing with grief and loss, and its failed bid for originality takes the form of an unreasonably high quirkiness quotient.

Despite an awful title that's perfectly suited for a hospital or construction site safety guide, the objects in question are not dirty syringes or rusty nails; rather, The Safety of Objects is brimming with narrative strands about people coping with life's most difficult and daunting elements (the loss of a loved one, sexual frustration, professional ennui) by focusing their quests for happiness on either their unsatisfying careers or mundane possessions such as dishwashers, guitars, and treadmills. Esther Gold (Glenn Close) fanatically dotes on her comatose songwriter son Paul (Joshua Jackson) in lieu of caring for her husband Howard (Robert Klein) and rebellious daughter Julie (Jessica Campbell). Neighbor Annette Jennings (Patricia Clarkson) is a single mother trying to take care of her two kids while waging a financial and personal battle with her ex-husband. Lawyer Jim Train (Dermot Mulroney) can't see the forest from the trees because of his fixation with work, and his constant absence from his wife and kids has made him unaware of son Jake's (Alex House) creepy relationship with a Barbie-esque doll that speaks to him. And in a prime example of dysfunctional overload, we even get sexually frustrated, fanatically health conscious housewife Helen Christiansen (Mary Kay Place), as well as neighborhood gardener Randy (Timothy Olyphant), who's dealing with the death of his adolescent brother.

Continue reading: The Safety of Objects Review

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