The Safety of Objects (2001)

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Released 23-Jun-2004

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Audio
Featurette-The Story
Featurette-The Characters
Theatrical Trailer
Trailer-Lost In La Mancha, Russian Ark, Nowhere In Africa, Amandla!
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2001
Running Time 115:39 (Case: 121)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (58:50) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Rose Troche
Renaissance Films
Madman Entertainment
Starring Glenn Close
Dermot Mulroney
Jessica Campbell
Patricia Clarkson
Joshua Jackson
Moira Kelly
Robert Klein
Timothy Olyphant
Mary Kay Place
Kristen Stewart
Alex House
Charlotte Arnold
Andrew Airlie
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI ? Music Barb Morrison
Charles Nieland
Nance Nieland

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.40:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     How do objects make us feel safe? What value do we ascribe to them, and how do we believe them to be talismans against pain, loss or misfortune? In Rose Troche 's film The Safety of Objects, we encounter four slices of life served up in four neighbouring American suburban families. The suburb as a metaphor for hidden angst is almost becoming a cliché these days, and comparisons with films like American Beauty, Magnolia and What's Cooking? become inevitable, but the questions which she poses for us makes this a distinct and valid contribution to cinema. Glenn Close's character, Esther Gold, as she tends to her comatose son declares, "There's a certain security in feeling that the worst has happened," and that somewhat maudlin, tragic strain filters through the entire film.

     We are introduced to four families. Esther Gold's clan consists of her husband Howard (Robert Klein), her aforementioned son, Paul (Joshua Jackson) and her bitter teenaged daughter Julie (Jessica Campbell.) According to Troche's assessment, Esther is very much a matriarch who holds herself together by holding her family together.

     Nearby live the Christiansons. The boorish husband Wayne (C. David Johnson) has managed, after 19 or so years of marriage, to completely invalidate his wife, Helen (Mary Kay Place) who is now desperately trying to find ways to forge her own identity, other than that of wife and mother of two. Troche describes Helen's type as a "booster" - interminably looking for a spark that will keep things fresh.

     Of the other two households, Troche informs us that as younger women, both Annette Jennings (Patricia Clarkson) and Susan Train (Moira Kelly) are more feminist in their orientation, though Annette is the more emotionally oriented of the two.

     Annette is recently divorced from the self-immersed and insensitive Bruce (Andrew Airlie). The children are suffering financially and emotionally from his neglect and Amanda is also reeling from the tragic loss of a recent partner with whom there could have been a very good relationship. For Susan, it's a problem of adjusting to the suburbs, having moved from the city with her 2 young children and her lawyer husband, Jim (Dermot Mulroney). For Jim, life is unravelling into a tangle of uncertainties when, after slaving day and night for his legal firm, he is passed over for a promotion. This goes against everything he's been taught about reward for effort, and leaves him listless and drained of purpose.

      I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall when Rose Troche pitched this film to studios. How on earth did she describe it without making it sound like a soap opera script? Because, as melodramatic as the storyline sounds, she truly does manage to keep all these storylines afloat with an authenticity and humanity that allows us to buy into them. Through flashbacks and revelations, we see how the comatose Paul is a chord that binds all of them together in various ways, and yet his suspension between life and death seems to leave all these others in a similar state of emotional suspension.

      Esther tries to win back the affections of her bitter daughter by entering a radio competition conducted at a shopping mall. If she can maintain at least one hand's contact on the prize car the longest, she will win the vehicle for her daughter. For some reason, this contest gives Jim something to focus upon, and he becomes her self-appointed coach. During one of her infrequent breaks, and in abject exhaustion, Esther says to Jim something to the effect of after a while you grow to believe that it's not about consequence for right or for wrong - life's just random chance.

      And I suppose that's sort of the crux of the film - it's about learning to let go of our beliefs that life "should" go one way or another. As we learn to accept reality for the random phenomenon that it is, we are less needy of objects to fortify our perceptions of the world. To divulge the storyline too freely would be to spoil the feeling of discovery that comes along with these tangled plots. Overall, it would be reasonable to say that generally the female characters in this piece are better drawn than the male ones. Even Mulroney, who gets more screen time than most of the men is still something of a one dimensional character. Perhaps this was why What's Cooking? sprang to mind.

      I'm not entirely convinced that this is a completely successful film in terms of what it set out to achieve. There are brief lucid moments of rich profundity, and some quirky aberrant moments that point to secret longings and unresolved issues for the characters. But where Magnolia had that haunting sense of loss that was almost agonisingly palpable, this film doesn't quite reach those heights. For all that, it is an interesting film and worth a look.

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Transfer Quality


     This was a rather horrid transfer.

     The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.40:1 16x9 enhanced, which is close to its original aspect of 2.35:1 but that's not where the problems lie.

     I couldn't believe how incredibly muddy, dingy and dark this transfer was. There was no shadow detail as a consequence.

     Watching this transfer makes one feel as if there is a piece of amber glass between the viewer and the screen. Everything was heavily coloured and oversaturated in the orange range, making skin tones look artificial, and everything else look plain wrong.

     There was no aliasing to speak of, which is of course a good thing and, with the exception of some minor dust marks, the level of film artefacts was acceptable.

     Subtitles were fine.

     This disc is an RSDL disc, with the layer change placed at 58:50. The change is not disruptive to the flow of the movie at this point.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


     There are two audio tracks on this DVD. The default is an English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. There is also an English Dolby Digital 2.0 track. I listened to both, but used the 5.1 for the balance of the film.

     The dialogue was not particularly well transferred. There were occasions when it was not very distinct at all, making me glad for recourse to the subtitles. Audio sync was not a problem with this transfer.

    The music track was generally adequate, although I did not consider it anything particularly special.

     The surround channels were subtlety but appropriately used and the occasional burst of subwoofer output was never out of context with the action.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use



     The menu design is themed around the movie. It is a static display with music.

Featurette - The Story (7:40)

     Rose Troche explains what the basis of the story is and then various actors in interview mode discuss their involvement with and interpretation of the film.

Featurette - The Characters (4:26)

     I'm not entirely sure why they separated these 2 "featurettes" - they are ostensibly covering the same material, and the interviews are conducted at the same time and, in fact, in some occasions are replicated between the pieces. Anyway, call it "Featurette Part II" and you've got the idea.

Theatrical Trailer (2:19)

     The sound is pretty bad, but the vision is soooooo much brighter - it was like looking at a different movie. In places it was a "so THAT'S what that was!" kind of experience.

Theatrical Trailers - Madman Propaganda

     Trailers for:
     Lost In La Mancha (1:33) (an absolute MUST SEE movie, by the way!)
     Russian Ark (2:10)
     Nowhere in Africa (2:20)
     Amandla! (1:41)

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     There appears to be no differences between the 2 regions.


     When life doesn't behave the way we expect it to, to what do we cling to grant us a sense of security? This is the basic idea in this film - about how fragile we are in the face of a fickle destiny, and how interlocked our lives really are. There are some interesting moments, and some less successful ones, but it is a genuinely interesting film that deserves more of an audience than it received at the box office.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Mirella Roche-Parker (read my bio)
Monday, January 19, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDSinger SGD-001, using S-Video output
DisplayTeac 76cm Widescreen. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationTeac 5.1 integrated system
SpeakersTeac 5.1 integrated system

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