Sunday, March 2, 2008

Things We Lost in the Fire. Out Tuesday March 4th (Paramount). (******6/10)

Halle Berry is an over-rated actress. And she is under-rated as a hottie. I can't say enough good things about how gorgeous she is, and yet I can't seem to find too many nice things to say about her acting. Oh, she's passable enough. She can be quite good, and in some movies, almost great. But Charlize Theron or Cate Blanchett she is not. But she has managed to do a great job with her career, and has recently landed meaty acting roles like the one in Monster's Ball and this one here in Things We Lost in the Fire. Benicio Del Toro, on the other hand, is over-rated as an attractive guy, and under-rated as an actor. He is fairly ugly, it seems to me. Not Steve Buscemi or Ric Ocasek ugly, but certainly he is no Scott Baio. However, he has been able to translate his unique looks and remarkable acting into similarly challenging roles, like Fenster in The Usual Suspects, and great roles in Traffic, Fear And Loathing in Las Vegas, Sin City, and now Things We Lost in the Fire.

All of which means that Things We Lost in the Fire is only as good as Halle Berry and Benicio Del Toro can make it. When that means it's as good as Halle Berry, it's decent, even good at times. When that means it's as good as Del Toro, it has moments verging on brilliant. However, that is all there is here, which leaves a lot of bothersome moments. Berry plays a woman whose husband (David Duchovny) is killed by a random act of violence. Del Toro is Duchovny's childhood friend, a friend who is a heroin addict. He has never met any of the family, or the other friends, since he wouldn't be seen by anyone until he was clean. But now, with Duchovny's death, and Del Toro's attendance at the funeral, bridges are gapped and amends are made. This all leads to him moving into his friend's house, with his widow and young children. There are some strange moments. Like, when Halle Berry takes her kids swimming, and wears a really awesome string bikini. If it's going to be just you and your kids, would you really wear a Hawaiian Tropic Girl uniform? Well, I have dated some women who would, and it's Halle Berry, so who cares? Bring on the string.

The main problem with Things We Lost In The Fire is that it is strangely unmoving. There are scenes which should be heart-wrenching that end up being barely compelling. Maybe because the director seems to insist on focussing on characters, one eye at a time. You might not notice that the first time you see this film, but now that I've mentioned it, you will be irritated by this quirk. Oh yeah, there's that one eye again. The scenes between Duchovny and Del Toro are terrific. They have a very convincing last-friend-on-earth vibe between them. And the scene where Del Toro goes through heroin withdrawal is as good and as harrowing as some other classics, like the one in Trainspotting or the wonderful acting job by Frank Sinatra in The Man With The Golden Arm. At one point the little girl says "do you ever feel like you're inside a movie? I do. And it's a sad movie." And that is the biggest problem. You always feel like you are watching a movie. The scenes are very realistic - people are incapable of expressing their emotions or voicing exactly what they want to say. Which is very real. However, it does nothing to move the film along, and a lot of motivations go unexplained and we are never really able to understand.

Things We Lost In The Fire is very up-and-down. When it's on, it's fantastic. When it's off, it's tepid and obvious. Unfortunately, it's more often off than on.


  1. "He is no Scott Baio" --- LMAO!

  2. Hmmm...I think I'll use that in my voiced review then!