The Glass House
Let's see. Terry and Erin Glass (Stellan Skarsgard and Diane Lane) live in, umm, the glass house on the Malibu cliffs; or, you could say, the Glass house. No, make it "The Glass House," a film set in - oh, never mind. The important point is that Terry and Erin are not good people, something we intuit before they have opened their mouths. For one thing, Stellan Skarsgard is an actor with a repertoire of two expressions: dull and threatening, and in "The Glass House" he makes full use of both of them (think "Good Will Hunting"). I assure you that even if Skarsgard were playing Jesus Christ you would wonder about his motives.
The story is simple: The parents of sixteen-year-old Ruby (Leelee Sobieski) and her 11-year-old brother Rhett (Trevor Morgan) are killed in a car crash as they celebrate their twentieth wedding anniversary. For reasons only a studio executive could fathom they have made arrangements through their lawyer that in the event of their deaths the children are to be put in the guardianship of, yes, the Glasses, who, should the children then die, will inherit the $4 million now in trust for the kids. Can we guess what the Glasses have in mind?
The filmmakers (writer Wesley Strick and director Daniel Sackheim) use every trick in the book to build suspense - toenail-level camerawork following feet across the floor; dim blue light suffusing every scene, day or night; shock cuts with sound-effect music hits when Mr. Glass appears out of nowhere to thwart the children's attempts to escape - but because the script is so stupid we can't even jump. At one point Skarsgard even has to say to Sobieski, when she questions his motives, "That's not only insane, it's also hurtful!" - a line only he could deliver with a straight face. Another memorable line is given to Bruce Dern, the lawyer: "So the accident, in effect, orphaned you and your brother." I love the "in effect."
However, the film is not a total disaster. Sobieski - the child whore in "Eyes Wide Shut" - is excellent here, carrying off some preposterous scenes with a calmness and panache. As an actress she is open to the camera, so we in the audience can actually see into her character, see her mind at work, see her feelings even when she does not speak the lines. If only the lines….