THE GLASS HOUSE
Review by Michael Jacobson
Leelee Sobieski, Diane Lane, Stellan Skarsgard, Bruce Dern, Trevor Morgan
Director: Daniel Sackheim
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Surround
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1, Pan & Scan 1.33:1
Studio: Columbia Tri Star
Features: See Review
Length: 107 Minutes
Release Date: January 2, 2002
have to do what’s best for the children.”
that The Glass House is both A) a big house of almost all windows, and B)
a house owned by a family named Glass, and you get the feeling that you’re
watching something that’s not as clever as it thinks it is.
This is a misguided movie; one that mistakes a squirm factor and sudden
starts for genuine scares, and one that mistakes dramatic implausibility for
opens with a shot of a cheesy horror movie played out on a screen, where Ruby
Baker (Sobieski) and friends are enjoying themselves. What happens in the movies isn’t real horror, the picture
suggests, but rather, what happens next. When
Ruby arrives home, she discovers cops waiting to tell her that her parents have
been killed in an auto accident.
to the family lawyer (Dern), the parents’ wish was for Ruby and her little
brother Rhett (Morgan) to live in the custody of one time neighbors and good
friends the Glasses. Erin (Lane) is
a doctor and Terry (Skarsgard) is a businessman…both seem successful, and
their big beautiful house seems like a wonderful new place to live.
Until, that is, both brother and sister are placed in the same bedroom,
despite the size of the house and number of rooms!
only the start of how the film tries to make you squirm.
Soon after, we catch Terry leering at Ruby as she goes for a midnight
swim. That scene is echoed
throughout by the constant imagery of reflected water on walls and ceilings as
we travel through the Glass house.
trailer for this movie gave far too much away…a mistake I’ll try not to
duplicate here, but I think you’ll agree with me when you see it that the
conclusion has been made clear very early on.
There are no surprises and no real suspense…we merely wait for the
inevitable until the picture finally gives it to us.
aspect the film has going for it is a tremendous climactic scene; the one moment
where I responded to the movie with a real emotional reaction.
I only hoped its potency would not be offset by a silly attempt at a
topper, as many films like this are guilty of.
I was not granted my wish.
of the film’s progression hinges on points that are difficult to buy into.
Ruby, for example, has a knack for always being at the right place at the
right time (or wrong time, depending on your point of view) to learn the
necessary bits of exposition she (and we) need to propel the story.
For seemingly intelligent people, the Glasses are amazingly inept and
careless in guarding secrets that shouldn’t have been so hard to keep. But the most implausible moment for me is that Ruby
apparently didn’t notice one major detail about her parents’ accident until
it was just the right moment in the film for her to do so…the kind of detail
that anybody would have noticed immediately.
like these keep The Glass House from ever finding its rail.
It meanders drunkenly towards its foregone ending without ever giving us
the satisfaction of a real surprise or a believable twist to hold on to in the
interim. Though the cast of actors
is talented, none of the principals really get to live up to their reputations.
Stellan Skarsgard has been a favorite of mine for a few years, and I
don’t think I’ve ever seen him more ill at ease in a role as I’ve seen him
here. Likewise, Diane Lane has a
good moment or two, but is by and large wasted.
Leelee Sobieski brings a certain amount of earnestness and pluck to Ruby,
but since Ruby exists more like a plot device than a character, her performance
is forced to stay below radar for the most part.
the end, The Glass House is as fragile as its title suggests, and it
didn’t take much of a stone to shatter it down to its foundation.
is a good effort, but not amongst Columbia Tri Star’s best.
Given the scope ratio of the film, I personally would have preferred
using dual layer technology to give more space to the anamorphic widescreen
transfer and nix the pan & scan version on side 2.
Though the colors are good and the picture doesn’t suffer from any
undue grain, there is a constant, slight softness to the image that’s
noticeable…sometimes more so than others.
Lines and details aren’t always as strong as I would like, even in
brighter scenes. Darker scenes seem
to play a little better, because you expect some detail loss in them.
One shot in particular of a sunrise suffers from a rather harsh bit of
shimmering that you can’t ignore. It’s
very brief, though, and the only one of it’s kind.
Overall, it still marks a decent looking presentation, but a bit sub par
for the studio.
5.1 soundtrack serves much better. Two
sequences in particular give you your money’s worth…one, where Ruby and
Rhett try to escape in a thunderstorm, and a car chase near the end.
These open up all stages of audio with plenty of dynamic range and bass,
utilizing all channels for maximum effect and potency.
During other stretches, dialogue is always clearly rendered, and the
musical cues from composer Christopher Young offer nice dramatic touches as
well. High marks.
disc starts off with a commentary track by director Daniel Sackheim and writer
Wesley Strick, which is about an average listen. Both men speak fluently, but what they speak of isn’t
particularly interesting. There is
also a single deleted scene (a funeral sequence) with optional commentary by the
same two fellows, plus a trailer for this movie and I Know What You Did Last
Summer, some filmographies, and very brief interview snippets with the
producer, Sobieski, Lane and Skarsgard that aren’t immediately apparent, but are
located in the filmographies menu.