Sunday, March 21, 2010

House of Sand and Fog. A-


One thing I liked about 'House of Sand and Fog' was how it didn't take sides. It gives us two central conflicting characters and offers equal sympathy and equal disdain. This refusal to take sides can be found in other movies, such as 'Dead Man Walking.' I only bring that one up because if you compare the DVD covers for the two movies, they're surprisingly similar. Go on Amazon and check for yourself. Anyway, 'House of Sand and Fog,' based off the 1999 novel of the same name, doesn't pick a good guy or a bad guy. Jennifer Connelly plays a woman who's small California house is being taken from her because of unpaid taxes. Soon after she moves out, an Iranian man (Ben Kingsley) and his wife and son move into the house. The only problem is that the woman was told she would regain her home. The Iranian is planning to sell it for more money after updating the foundation, but the woman couldn't possibly afford the cost. Thus begins a battle that can only be resolved by somebody making a sacrifice. 'House of Sand and Fog' is an easy movie to praise. It's a finely adapted piece of work with strong, resonant performances and a story of conscience and guilt that could be told hundreds of years ago just as easily as today. I sat down to this film having no idea what to expect. I didn't even know the basic premise. All I had was the brilliant title, which led me to it in the first. It turns out the movie was well worth my while. There's no action in the movie, but the suspense is great because these are humans and we know they're capable of anything. We expect the climax to be surprising, but not nearly as shattering as what actually happens. The movie leaves us on the somber note of the best Shakespearean tragedies. The major flaw I found was why these characters are so intent on possessing the house. First of all, it's not a great property besides the location by the lake. Secondly, the woman shouldn't be so persistent on getting it back. Though it does have some family ties, she should recognize that she was irresponsible and does not deserve to have it returned to her. But since this is the reason for the story anyway, you can't really make a huge deal out of it. 'House of Sand and Fog' succeeds because of its story. Though it may not be completely believable, this battle for a house ends up being much more. and the story within the story so to speak is very believable.

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