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Sunday, January 25, 2004
A GOOD TRAGEDY

House of Sand and Fog is a pretty good film. It holds together well and has a couple of great performances from Jennifer Connelly - who has never looked gorgeouser - and Ben Kingsley - who was made to play this role.

You know Ben Kingsley is a great actor because every role he plays, people say "that role was just made for him!" No, he's just a great actor and makes every role seem like it was, well made for him, because that's what actors do, act like they are playing a real person, and not themselves just changing clothes like Tom Cruise or Melanie Griffith, for example, who always seem to be playing the same person in different clothes.

[Excuse the run-on sentence, but I am watching the celebrities being interviewed on the red carpet, and I think the "I don't know how to talk without a script so I will just keep running on my mouth saying stupid things about my dress and my movie and my lovelife until you pull the microphone away" thing may be contagious.]

Anyway, House of Sand and Fog is a tragedy in the Shakespearian mode, in which a good guy tries to finesse a little bit of evil, and innocent people he loves end up paying with their lives. The movie has a very slow-building momentum towards its ultimate tragedy, although it never feels like someone couldn't stop the whole thing by just pulling out of the madness. The story comes down to the horrible things wrought in two people's lives by greed and pride. I think it is ultimately a moral story.

From a story perspective, the thing stays believable well into the third act, and when it does start to press credibility, it isn't annoyingly unrealistic...just slightly. I do wish the writer had eliminated the cop boyfriend character. He exists basically just so we have somebody to get naked with Jennifer, but he takes away from the film because we only really want to watch Kingsley and Connelly.

The score is written by James Horner and is really too big for the movie. Several times I was taken out of the movie by the bigness of the music which doesn't seem to match the slow build of the story. It was like Horner was screaming at us, "I AM THE GUY WHO SCORED TITANIC!!!! I HAVE TO TELL YOU WHAT A GREAT COMPOSER I AM BECAUSE OTHERWISE YOU MIGHT NOT NOTICE!"

Still, I give this film a thumbs up. It is well-crafted and thoughtful.