THINGS WE LOST IN THE FIRE (DreamWorks, 2007) D: Susanne Bier, w/ Halle Berry, Benicio Del Toro. Rating: NNN; DVD package: NN
What could have been a maudlin weepie turns into a strong drama by virtue of a commitment to emotional realism and a script, direction and acting that are free of clichés.
Halle Berry has the toughest role as middle-class housewife Audrey Burke, who hates and fears her husband’s lifelong best friend, a junkie, yet takes him into her home when she’s suddenly widowed. Audrey spends most of the movie in shock, her emotions shut down, and Berry works hard to keep her flatness interesting. She succeeds, partly because the script sets up Audrey’s quirks in the happier flashback scenes.
Benicio Del Toro has the flashy role of Jerry, the junkie, but the script lets him be more than that. He’s filled with shame, hope and pride in the one friend who never gave up on him. The junkie twitch and self-pity are in short supply.
Danish director Susanne Bier (After The Wedding) gives the tensions between Audrey and Jerry a thrillerish edge with big close-ups, restless hand-held camera and odd angles. Check out her novel approach to Audrey and her husband’s (David Duchovny) love scene.
Berry and Del Toro aren’t especially articulate in the making-of doc, but Bier and writer Allan Loeb reveal a lot about their processes.
EXTRAS Making-of doc, deleted scenes. Widescreen. English, French, Spanish audio and subtitles.