'Glass House' Reflects Poorly on the Thriller Genre

MoviesEntertainmentDiane LaneLeelee SobieskiDeathKathy BakerBruce Dern

"The Glass House" is so laughably awful that it begs to have stones thrown at it; it's a wonder it got made at all. Since its producer, Neal H. Moritz, has among his credits such diverse successes as "The Fast and the Furious," "Cruel Intentions" and "I Know What You Did Last Summer," it is hard to understand what he saw in this hopelessly contrived script, credited to Wesley Strick, that is studded with increasingly wretched dialogue.

It's understandable that Emmy Award-winning director Daniel Sackheim, in his feature debut, would want to play it straight, but his earnest approach serves only to heighten the film's unintended humor. In any event, there's no real pleasure in seeing the accomplished young actress Leelee Sobieski trying to the make the best of bad material. All things considered, she acquits herself quite well, but the film gets the better of Stellan Skarsgrd, normally one of the most compelling actors in international cinema today.

As is so often the case, the film starts out promisingly. Sobieski's 16-year-old Ruby is a bright, slightly rebellious Valley girl. She clashes with her kid brother Rhett (Trevor Morgan) and finds her prosperous, conscientious parents to be a bit too strict. Anyway, this is a solid, happy family shattered in an instant when Ruby's parents are killed in a car accident on their way home from an evening out to celebrate their 20th wedding anniversary. With her only close relative an uncle (Chris Noth) in Chicago whom she has met only once in her life, she and 11-year-old Rhett end up as wards of their parents' friends Terry (Skarsgrd) and Erin (Diane Lane) Glass, who live in a high-tech mansion on a promontory overlooking Malibu. While having to leave their home and friends in Encino, Ruby and Rhett would seem to have lucked out pretty well in the face of tragedy. Indeed, Ruby is quite impressed with Terry's eulogy at her parents' funeral.

Obviously, the welcoming Terry and Erin are not going to turn out to be what they seem, or there wouldn't be any movie. It's at this point that the film swiftly runs out of ideas. Terry and Erin so obviously do not have their wards' best interests at heart--for reasons revealed much too early on--that it's clear that Ruby and Rhett are in real and rapidly escalating danger. Skarsgrd tries hard to bring out the humor in his dastardly villain, but the dialogue he has to speak beats him to it, making him seem merely ludicrous. Lane has a lousy part, too, but it doesn't make her seem quite as foolish as Skarsgrd.

One hopes this sleek but silly would-be thriller won't stall the career momentum of its substantial cast, which includes Bruce Dern and Kathy Baker, who fare well in supporting roles.

MPAA-rated: PG-13, for sinister thematic elements, violence, drug content and language. Times guidelines: The film is entirely unsuitable for children despite relatively mild ratting.

'The Glass House'

Leelee Sobieski: Ruby

Diane Lane: Erin

Stellan Skarsgrd; Terry

Trevor Morgan: Rhett

A Columbia Pictures presentation of an Original Film production. Director Daniel Sackheim. Producer Neal H. Moritz. Executive producer Michael Rachmil. Screenplay by Wesley Strick. Cinematographer Alar Kivito. Editor Howard E. Smith. Costumes Chrisi Karvonides Dushenko. Music Christopher Young. Production designer Jon Gary Steele. Art director Sarah Knowles. Set decorator Tessa Posnansky. Running time: 1 hour, 45 minutes.

In general release.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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