Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Things We Lost in the Fire

Audrey (Halle Berry) loses her husband Brian (David Duchovny) to a senseless attack while trying to break up a domestic dispute. Audrey turns to Brian's best friend Jerry (Benicio Del Toro) for support even though she has resented him for years. Audrey just wants someone around to keep that since of her husband there for herself and her two children. They are mostly selfish reasons because Jerry is trying to fight his addiction to heroin all the while he provides a father figure.

Jerry starts going to meetings to get help and befriends a younger addict named Kelly (Alison Lohman). He also becomes a sympathetic ear for Brian's other friend and neighbor Howard (John Carroll Lynch taking time off from scaring the shit out of you in Zodiac). As Jerry becomes a bigger part of their lives will he be accepted or perhaps he will relapse under the strain...

Things We Lost in the Fire has a contrived screenplay that puts these characters into a situation and seems lost on what to do from there. Halle Berry is trying way too hard to run the gambit of emotions - which she can do two. Her subpar skills are much more noticable with the power of Del Toro's performance. He plays Jerry with a subtlety that Berry could never grasp. He can provide more depth with a look than with all the lines Halle has in the script. It would have been nice to see someone like Maria Bello or Naomi Watts (very 21 Grams-ish)in the lead... actresses who actually can act. Lynch and Lohman are top notch here in key supporting turns.

The basic idea of a heroin addict staying with a family in a time is loss is quite prepostorous... but if you can get by that detail you actually get an involving story of recovery. Only the Audrey part is flawed with everything else being very well done. It seems frustrating for this film to hinge on an actress who can bring the goods. I think that is my only real problem with the film. It has an awkward start with a slow set up... and a somewhat disjointed opening only adds to this feeling. The overall pacing gets better later on when the story becomes Jerry's. Del Toro should have received a nomination for best supporting actor for his work here and the fact he didn't is frustrating.


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