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House of Sand and Fog (2003)
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Review Date: December 03, 2003
Director: Vadim Perelman
Writer: Vadim Perelman
Producers: Vadim Perelman, Michael London
Actors:
Jennifer Connelly as Kathy
Ben Kingsley as Colonel Behrani
Ron Eldard as Lester
Plot:
A hot girl who hasn't paid her home's back-taxes is booted onto the street, as her house is put up for auction. An immigrant man buys the house for a steal and moves in with his family. It's only later that the hot girl finds out that the county made a mistake and that she can no longer get her house back. A local sheriff befriends the hot girl and together they attempt to convince the man and his family, to sell her the house back. A house of sand and fog (don't ask)...ensues.
Critique:
I really, really liked about 2/3 of this movie, but its final act completely lost me, with various scenes feeling like its concluding one, over-the-top events destroying much of its formerly impressive character development and way too many major moments occurring within a short time period and taking me out of its previously well-established pace. This film is unusual since most movies that I see either suck all around, are 'so-so' all around or rock my world all the way through. This one was in my higher echelons early on, but felt like it turned into just another sad-sack movie by the end. That said, it features two of the year's better lead performances, particularly the one given by Ben Kingsley who played a similar hard-ass in SEXY BEAST a couple of years ago, but has a whole other family and sentimental angle here as well. It's to note that his character is about as pigheaded and chauvinistic as you can get (as well as a few other things), but for the story to work, also establishes a reason for being the way he is, a reasoning to which some of us might be able to relate. He's also a hard worker, shrewd and seems to have the good of his family at heart. Shohreh Aghdashloo, who plays his doting wife, is also very good and likely would have been a greater benefit to the movie, if developed further. I think her character's background would have strengthened the story, as opposed to the film's other focus, involving Connelly and the guy from "ER".

Connelly also pulls off yet another impressive performance, but to be honest with you, I'm getting kinda sick of her crying in every other scene in every other film of hers. I believe her to be a great actress, on top of being drop-dead gorgeous, but me thinks it's time for her agent to start handing her more romantic roles or goofy comedies or something. Show us WHAT ELSE you can do, Jennie-poo! We love you. She is very good in her role though and also establishes many reasons to empathize with her very unfortunate life situation. The one character who didn't really work for me, and I'm not sure if it was because he wasn't written properly or the actor was just plain miscast, was the one played by Ron Eldard, who despite working to establish another prong in the film's main dilemma, felt like a device and eventually just turned into a cliché and hurt the movie...particularly during its sorted conclusion. I'm not speaking much about the film's story because it's a simple one. Two characters who both believe they're right about something, butt heads. I love these kinds of movies, especially when the screenplay provides enough ammo to sympathize with either side. Despite a few scenes during which I just felt like screaming "Folks, give it up already...move on with your lives...it's just a fuckin' house!!", it did work, for the most part. That is until the film ended on an overly somber note that didn't really help me to grasp its greater point.

It also jacked up its pretentiousness from time to time with too many obvious shots of fog rolling into town (we get it) and felt a lot longer than two hours. And is it me or would any county in North America need to send a registered letter to someone if they were going to evict them from their house (so that they know that the person received it) or better yet, need more than a simple $500 in back-taxes to boot someone into the streets. I could be wrong, but that seemed sorta drastic. That said, the film worked for me on a performance level, clicked much of the way through with its characters' lives carefully constructed and engrossing dramatics, but ultimately lost me with its ending which felt out of place, grandiose and unsatisfying. Maybe I need to study the film a little more or watch it under more appeasing circumstances another time (a moron couple two rows behind me were laughing through much of the film-oh, there's nothing funny in the movie) to appreciate it more, but for now I consider it to be a good movie, with faults.
(c) 2015 Berge Garabedian
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