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Wednesday, June 1, 2011

GLASS HOUSE: THE GOOD MOTHER -- movie review by porfle

She puts on a crisp, spotless dress and high heels to clean her oven, and when her husband informs her that their young son, David, is missing from his room, she washes her hands and neatly folds the towel before joining in the search. She makes the Anal-Retentive Chef look like Jim Belushi on a bender. She makes Martha Stewart look like Rosanne with explosive diarrhea. She's Eve Goode (Angie Harmon), the title character in GLASS HOUSE:THE GOOD MOTHER (2006), and if you dare disrupt her orderly household in any way, she just might grab a meat cleaver and filet you like that catfish she just prepared for dinner. Mmm-mmm!

After the apparent loss of their son, Eve and her husband Raymond (Joel Gretsch--MINORITY REPORT, "The 4400") adopt a recently orphaned boy named Ethan (Bobby Coleman) and his older sister Abby (Jordan Hinson). Although the kids would rather live with Ben Koch (Jason London), a cop who has known them all their lives and cares deeply about them, and would love to take them in if he felt himself qualified or capable of raising them, Abby and Ethan are soon swept away by the wonderfulness of their new foster parents and the incredible Spanish-style mansion on a hill that is their new home. But the too-good-to-be-true fascade begins to crumble right away as Eve, who seemed so ethereally kind and compassionate at first, gradually reveals herself to be a domineering, ultra-obsessive weirdo who controls their every move and allows them no freedom whatsoever.

While doting on Ethan, Eve competes with Abby for his love and develops a spiteful and increasingly violent relationship with her as Abby grows more and more rebellious. When Ethan comes down with a mysterious illness that former-nurse Eve insists on treating at home, Abby grows suspicious that Eve is spiking his food to make him sick. She consults the Internet for information, learns of a disorder called "Munchausen By Proxy", and is horrified to find that Eve fits every symptom listed to a tee. Ethan grows sicker by the day and both their lives appear to be in grave danger as Eve grows progressively nuttier. Then, when Abby finally ventures into the forbidden bedroom of Eve and Raymond's late son David and discovers the whole truth, she realizes that she and her brother must escape from the house that has become their prison before it's too late.

This is one of those yarns that could be utter, boring crap if handled poorly, but scripter Brett Merryman and first-time director Steve Antin keep things highly suspenseful and tense to the very end. The fluid camerawork and editing give us a succession of beautifully-shot images that flow into each other with a dreamlike quality that grows darker and more nightmarish as the situation descends into terror. Steven Gutheinz' evocative musical score adds to the mood as well. My only gripe, which didn't lessen my enjoyment of the movie all that much, is that a particular subplot concerning a nocturnal prowler and a strange discovery Abby makes in the basement doesn't really go anywhere.

Jordan Hinson is a talented young actress who is impressive as Abby. Joel Gretsch as Raymond does a nice job of portraying a husband who loves his wife so much that he forces himself to overlook the fact that she's a monster and becomes a reluctant accomplice in her actions. But the most interesting performance is that of Angie Harmon as Eve. I saw her in END GAME a few months ago and was impressed with her talent then, but she really outdoes herself here. In a role that would have many actresses mugging and rolling their eyes with exaggerated wicked-witch evilness, Harmon plays it with utmost skill, going from perfect "new mom" wonderfulness to frightening psycho-bitch in a believable way that makes the character chillingly effective.

At one point, she shoves Abby against a wall and sneers, "I'm twice the bitch you think you are", and you believe it. Later, Abby thinks she's creeping through the house by herself, looking for a way out, but when she passes behind a column and emerges from the other side, Eve is suddenly right behind her, matching her footsteps with a self-satisfied smirk on her face and a wild look in her eyes. It's a smartly-directed shot, well-acted, and it made me jump. GLASS HOUSE: THE GOOD MOTHER has several nice moments like that, adding up to one very effective thriller, and I enjoyed every minute of it.

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