THE GLASS HOUSE directed by Daniel Sackheim, written by Wesley Strick, produced by Neal H. Moritz, with LeeLee Sobieski, Stellan Skarsgrd, Diane Lane and Bruce Dern. 103 minutes. A Columbia Pictures release. Opens Friday (September 14). For venues and times, see First-Run Movies, this page. Rating: NN
the loss of one parent, let alone both, must be the most traumatic event in a teenager's life. There's a really interesting movie about that subject hiding somewhere in The Glass House, in which Ruby (Leelee Sobieski) loses her parents and then discovers that her guardians don't have her best interests at heart.
The Glass House's writer, Wesley Strick, has a couple of decent credits, notably True Believer and Return To Paradise (both directed by Joseph Ruben). His less impressive screenplays include the Cape Fear remake and The Saint. Subtlety is not his strong point, and he tends to flail at the obvious.
He is also, unfortunately, inclined to cheat reality to get to where he's going. The failing point of The Glass House lies in making Ruby 16 years old. Her estate lawyer (Bruce Dern) informs her that if it doesn't work out with the new guardians, she has no option but to become a ward of the state. It never occurs to her -- a rich teen living in southern California -- to apply for emancipated minor status.
Or to call on her uncle, who's living back east. So she's either bone ignorant or stupid, though it turns out that she's neither. But when her guardian cancels her AOL home account, why doesn't she use a school account? This is a high school in Malibu; you'd think computer and Internet access would be a basic part of the facility.
This leaves us with a standard terrorized female in a flashily art-directed house, at the mercy of Stellan Skarsgrd at his creapiest as a financially pressed businessman and Diane Lane as his substance-abusing wife.
Which might have given this film some heft if there were a shred of ambiguity in any of the characters, or an exceptional performance by any of the actors.
Or if Sobieski had more than two facial expressions, the first an anguished grimace and the second a sort of deflated sorrow. She may look like Helen Hunt, but she has yet to act like her.