Monday, December 29, 2003

House of Sand and Fog (IMDB) (Netflix)
Jennifer Connelly is an alcoholic, slightly self-destructive housekeeper who's just lost her house (safety tip: read your mail), and Ben Kingsley is a former Iranian army colonel who desperately wants to regain some semblance of self-respect. Combine those ingredients with an overly helpful police officer (Ron Eldard) and a screenwriter's convenient disregard for the realities of property law, and you've got yourselves a situation.

Walking out of the theater afterwards was a middle-aged couple. The guy said "chick flick noir", and his wife laughed. That's too kind; this is a relentless bleak-fest. Every character and plot point reeks of impending senseless tragedy, and the amazing thing is that the ending exceeds your worst fears. Give credit to all concerned for staying true to a vision and realizing it in a truly competent fashion, but it's not one that many will want to be part of. The audience's uneasy, nervous laughter as the credits rolled signalled the end of a harrowing experience that some apparently liked but no one seemed eager to repeat.

This movie is showing up on many critics' Top 10 lists, which validates the film's craftsmanship, but isn't indicative of its enjoyability.