Things We Lost in the Fire
March 10, 2008
The dreaded Oscar curse affects so many actors who win one of those golden statuettes. For some reason, after they win an Academy Award their choices in film roles is simply awful. Just look at what Kevin Spacey and Nicolas Cage have done since they won an Oscar: K-Pax (2001) and Next (2007) respectively. Halle Berry is one of the extreme examples. After winning an Academy Award for Monster’s Ball (2001), she seems to be intentionally tanking her career by making one lousy film after another (Catwoman, Gothika, etc.). Benicio Del Toro has fared better. After winning for Traffic (2000), he’s kept a pretty low-profile with the notable exception of memorable roles as a wrongly accused man in Sean Penn’s The Pledge (2001) and a corrupt cop in Sin City (2005). Things We Lost in the Fire (2007) is an attempt to get back to basics with a low-key, character-driven drama.
When her husband Bryan (Duchovny) dies suddenly, Audrey (Berry) reconnects with his life-long friend Jerry (Del Toro), a troubled drug addict. Through a series of flashbacks we see the close relationship Bryan had with Jerry and how he helped him when he was at his lowest. Early on, the film fails to commit itself on an emotional level. As soon as a scene gets emotional, director Susann Bier cuts to another scene. It’s the cinematic equivalent of throwing a skipping stone across the water. Even when the characters are physically close to each other the dialogue is light. For this kind of a film we expect a certain amount of emotional intimacy between the characters. However, the film is too busy jumping back and forth in time and so we don’t get settled until the scene where Audrey is told of her husband’s death. Finally, someone emotes as Berry does a fine job of portraying a woman devastated by the loss of a loved one.
She ends up asking Jerry to stay at her house with her two children. Audrey and Jerry are adrift in life and look to each other for support. She needs someone around the house to fix up the garage and help her deal with Bryan’s death. Staying at her house keeps him off the streets and sober because he has a reason to. The film settles down once Jerry moves in and he and Audrey get to know each other.
Benicio Del Toro Method acts his way through the film making his trademark idiosyncratic choices in any given scene. He is very believable as a drug addict – especially in the scene where he goes cold turkey after a relapse. Jerry goes through all the trademark symptoms. As always, Del Toro is fascinating just to watch how he reacts to those around him, especially the kids. It’s the choices he makes, like the unconventional way he reacts to a given situation, which makes him interesting to watch as an actor.
Things We Lost in the Fire is a film about dealing with grief and loss and how each person deals with it. While the two leads acquit themselves admirably, the film takes too long getting us emotionally invested in their characters’ plight. More importantly, it’s a good career move for Halle Berry who finally does something of substance and quality. Hopefully, her next role will be even better and maybe make us all forget the debacle that was Catwoman (2004).
“A Discussion About Things We Lost in the Fire” takes a look at how the film came together from its origins as a story by screenwriter Allan Loeb. Director Susanne Bier was drawn to the characters and the contemporary setting. Berry talks about the varying degrees of shock she had to convey over the duration of the film. Del Toro was intrigued by playing an addict and did extensive research for the role.
Also included are seven deleted scenes including a nice scene where Audrey’s brother, Neal plays with one of her kids. We see Jerry with one of his fellow junkies. Another one sees Jerry getting ready for his real estate examine. There is also a nice scene between Jerry and the kids.