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SUBURBAN SPRAWL
Rose Troche adapts A. M. Homes’ short-story collection The Safety of Objects

IN HER NEW FILM, The Safety of Objects, Rose Troche, whose romantic comedy Go Fish made her a poster girl for an emerging lesbian cinema, turns her talents to exploring the rituals and customs of another much maligned group — heterosexual suburbanites.

Adapted from A. M. Homes’ 1990 short-story collection about the internal terrors of suburban America, Troche’s film fuses Homes’ different tales into a common fictional world. Troche explains "It is a film about four families who share a close geography over four days in their lives. [There’s] a sort of falling apart and a philosophical regrouping. And what I did was put seven short

stories and their characters into four families. It did not seem like a big leap to push them all together. Although Homes had written the stories over a period of time and for different publications, it seemed like the things that were happening and the way things were falling apart were similar."

Indeed the ease with which these stories were able to morph from one to another both became a benefit and pitfall for Troche. In 1999, Homes herself morphed her story "Adults Alone," about a middle-class crack-smoking couple, into a full-length novel, Music for Torching, and thus created a contractual nightmare for Troche’s adaptation of the short-story collection. But Troche pushed past such setbacks to make the stories into a reflection of her own experiences. For Troche, "Part of my motivation for doing the film was my suburban experiences as well, so the movie became this merging of A.M.’s ideas and mine. Many of us who villianize the

suburbs grew up there. For me, since I grew up in the city and my parents had to struggle to get us to the suburbs, I am conflicted about suburbia. One of the hard things for me is how white the film is. I know that a lot of people would argue that the real suburbs are not that white. But for me, the suburbs are symbolically white."

To illustrate this, Troche cast a remarkably white cast — Glenn Close, Patricia Clarkson, Moira Kelly, Dermot Mulroney, Timothy Olyphant and Mary Kay Place — to inhabit her American suburban world (which, of course, was shot outside Toronto). Further, Troche tried to distance the film’s narrative from the episodic sensibility of Robert Altman’s Short Cuts, to which no doubt The Safety of Objects will be compared; "Rather than doing what Altman did with Raymond Carver’s stories, in which each story became an entity onto itself, I combined stories and assigned them to particular characters." And the community, which was to be more of an idea than an actual place, had to be both familiar as suburbia and un-locatable. As such, Troche explains, "I chose not to do a lot of establishing shots in the film. Once you get into an interior, it gets a little ambiguous. So the distinction between the homes becomes color and design, rather than particular architectural details." – Peter Bowen

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