Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Dark side of Suburbia; Episode 1,897,456

I watched The Safety of Objects last night, Rose Troche's film of an A.M. Homes book of short stories about the inner conflicts of the homes in a middle-class neighborhood, all coming apart at the seams.

Glenn Close mourns the living death of her son, who has been reduced to a perpetual coma; her husband, played by the comedian Robert Klein, is a worn, sad ghost, and her estranged daughter whiles away her afternoons masturbating over a boy she can no longer see. In another home, Patricia Clarkson is the divorced mom from from hell, trying to make ends meet and leaving poisonous messages on the answering machine of her ex. Mary Kay Place is the married woman who picks up strange men in bars and does tai chi exercises to remind herself that she is not guilty. Dermot Mulrooney is a brilliant lawyer and distant dad who suddenly suffers a mid-life crisis. His son is literally in love with a Barbie doll. A local gardener has lost his younger brother, and momentarily kidnaps Clarkson's boyish daughter because she looks like him.

There's surely some other story I'm forgetting but you get the idea.

All these lives are interconnected by a tragedy from the past year, the collective memory of which provides a fairly effective ending.

I looked up the Homes book on Amazon and came across this in a review:

    When you think of "suburbia," you think of somewhere that is safe, quiet, boring and normal. These stories take place in a neighborhood that could very well resemble somewhere where YOU live. The truth is that this "normal" neighborhood is contaminated with bizarre behavior and unbelievable stories.

Actually, nobody thinks of surburbia this way anymore, if they ever did, and certainly no one who attends movies does -- not after Blue Velvet, Short Cuts, Happiness, American Beauty, and Magnolia, all of which Troche and Homes seem to have seen many times.

Actually, the whole thing has become a bit of a schtick, hasn't it? Everyone wants to write an ever-more-creepy version of
Our Town.

Is it any longer interesting to reveal the penetrating hypocrisy of modern life?  Where is the life free from hypocrisy or pretense? Maybe a more interesting story accepts this much at face value and kind of moves on from there -- where the affairs and compromises of living are part of the story and not the whole story, where there's some point to be realized rather than the author's generalized anesthetic smugness.

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