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The Safety of Objects Reviews

There are ten short stories in A.M. Homes's collection The Safety of Objects, and writer-director Rose Troche (GO FISH, BEDROOMS & HALLWAYS) chose unwisely to weave six into a single screenplay. The result is a tangle of tangential subplots and tertiary characters crowding an already complicated story about four suburban families linked by a terrible car accident. Driving home after a gig, aspiring musician Paul Gold (Joshua Jackson) swerved to avoid hitting an oncoming car, instead crashing into an embankment. A year later, Paul is still in a coma, cared for at home by his attentive mother, Esther (Glenn Close). His teenaged sister, Julie (Jessica Campbell), resents the attention her mother lavishes on Paul, but she's found a way for Esther to make it up to her: Julie enters her mother in the marathon "Hands on a Hardbody" contest at the local mall. If Esther can outlast the other contestants without taking her hands off the car, Julie will drive home in a brand new SUV. Esther gets unexpected support from new neighbor Jim Train (Dermot Mulroney), a hardworking lawyer who went AWOL from work after a far less deserving associate was made partner over him. To the dismay of his wife, Susan (Moira Kelly), Jim finds renewed purpose in Esther's struggle — her victory would reaffirm his shaken belief that if you play by the rules, you'll come out on top — and begins spending all his time down at the mall, plying Esther with PowerBars and cheering her on. Meanwhile, Esther's next-door neighbor, divorc&#233e Annette Jennings (Patricia Clarkson), is in a panic. Annette and Paul were dating at the time of the accident, and now her older daughter, Sam (PANIC ROOM's excellent Kirsten Stewart), is missing; Annette fears her disgruntled ex (Andrew Airlie) has taken the child to Mexico. Annette's friend Helen Christianson (Mary Kay Place) is having far more mundane problems, but her character, like a host of others, remains too undeveloped to really matter. Troche has bitten off quite a bit here, and it's too much for her to chew properly. Characters are virtually tripping over one another, while all the earmarks of Homes's twisted take on modern suburban life — a young boy's sexual obsession with his younger sister's doll; a teenage girl masturbating alfresco; bad children who smoke cigarettes and set the woods on fire — are relegated to the status of inconsequential asides.