“Things We Lost In The Fire,” review by Susan Granger

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In her American debut, Danish director Susanne Bier tackles love, loss, jealousy, rage and recovery from drug addiction in a melodrama that unfolds slowly…at the pace of a death march.

Over the years, successful Seattle real estate developer Brian Burke (David Duchovny) has remained friends with his childhood buddy, Jerry Sunborne (Benicio Del Toro), a heroin addict, much to the chagrin of his uptight wife, Audrey (Halle Berry). But when Brian goes out for ice cream one night and is killed by a wife-abusing drunk, Audrey makes sure Jerry comes to the funeral, where he vows to quit drugs. Lost without a man around the house, Audrey invites him to move into an empty garage room that was damaged in an electrical blaze. While her precocious children – a 10 year-old girl (Alexis Llewellyn) and six year-old boy (Micah Berry) – are delighted, she’s ambivalent: kind and grateful one moment, rude and resentful the next.

Faced with overcoming Allan Loeb’s discordant, unrealistic, heavy-handed screenplay, Halle Berry tackles her first substantive role since her Oscar-winning turn in “Monster’s Ball.” Problem is: her querulous, one-note widow has no backstory: no job, no friends, no interests except her children. So it’s Benicio Del Toro’s cleverly nuanced performance that’s most memorable.

Director Susanne Bier cinematically interprets ‘emotional intensity’ through endless close-ups of dark, sad eyeballs; this may be her austere European sensibility but it begins to resemble an ophthalmologist’s training film. When she’s not examining eyes, Bier’s into an earlobe fetish, having Audrey invite Jerry into her bed to cure her insomnia by pulling on her earlobe. On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Things We Lost in the Fire” is an agonizingly morose, tedious 6, redeemed only by some remarkable acting.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.