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thingswelost

Things We Lost in the Fire is rated R “for drug content and language,” but it starts out with such saccharine goo, I’m about to puke. I spent a couple of months looking forward to getting the DVD through inter-library loan – and now, these cornball scenes. Fortunately, it gets better.

Audrey (Halle Berry) and Brian (David Duchovny) are a happily married interracial couple. Also happily, race has absolutely zero relation to any of the issues in this film, and is not even referred to. But Brian is always running off to spend time with heroin addict Jerry (Benecio Del Toro), his oldest friend, when he could be making love to Audrey or hanging out with their kids. Brian is the only person who’s never given up on Jerry, but the price of being his support system is a certain amount of stress on the marriage. However, there are lovely non-corny episodes that show a deep understanding of the ways in which two people accommodate each other to keep their thing going on.

Then Brian intervenes in a domestic dispute between strangers, and gets killed. Audrey sends her brother Neal to tell Jerry about it, and bring him to the gathering of mourners. Audrey tells Jerry how she’s hated him for years, but there is no real good explanation for why she suddenly quits hating him. He gives up his apartment and moves into a methadone clinic where he works as a handyman. Grieving and at a loose end, Audrey seeks him out

After a fire, the Burkes’ garage had been partly remodeled into a living space, so Audrey invites Jerry to move in. She alternates between needing his presence for comfort, and lashing out at him for not being Brian. It especially upsets her that Jerry gets along great with the kids, which is a particularly true-to-life detail. It’s amazing how people can loathe you for relating well to their loved ones. Then Audrey recruits Jerry to be her teddy bear, cuddling her at bedtime. Though she has no interest in having sex with him, she wants him to do what Brian used to do, to soothe her to sleep, namely, pull on her earlobe. She says, “Faster, harder,” an unnecessarily pointed reminder that they’re having some weird kind of surrogate non-sex. This was, in my opinion, way over the top.

Jerry used to be a lawyer, and family friend Howard encourages him to take the mortgage broker test and accept a job in his company. Jerry’s going to Narcotics Anonymous meetings and making a nice return to straight life, when Audrey gets a wild hair and asks him what heroin is like. Says she wants to know how it feels to escape. She seems to be working up to asking him to score for her. Luring a junkie back to junk is truly evil, and it’s a measure of how totally fucked up and conflicted this widow is.

Royally pissed off because Jerry knew where to find her daughter Harper, who was playing hooky from school, Audrey tells him to pack up and leave. He heads straight for the bottom, skid-row junkie style. Then Audrey decides to rescue him, takes him back to the converted garage adjoining her house, and assigns brother Neal to be his minder, while he goes through a hellacious withdrawal. (How did he manage to get so heavily re-addicted, so quickly?) Then she demands that he sign into a rehab clinic, which is pretty damn arrogant, when you consider that she removed him from a rehab setting in the first place, then tried to tempt him back into a habit, then threw him out when he was had succeeded in cleaning up with the help of Narcotics Anonymous. She’s really been jerking this poor guy around, and one can only hope that, once rehabbed, he steers clear of her.

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