Benita (Julia Mayorga), the young woman at the center of “Rare Objects,” the third feature film directed by Katie Holmes, has experienced transformative trauma. In the opening moments of the film, she is released from a psychiatric ward, where she was suffering from PTSD; a series of charged flashbacks show us what happened to him. In Manhattan, where she was a college student majoring in economics, she was approached in a bar by a seemingly nice guy, who had a drink with her, and when she went to the bathroom, he knocked her down. attacked, pushing her inside and sexually assaulting her. .
She pulls a shell of herself out of this crime, and Holmes shoots the rape so we find out how the shock and horror of it could undermine someone’s identity. Benita, released from the hospital, shows up at her loving but quietly stern mother’s (Saundra Santiago) home in Astoria, telling her she’s taking a break from school; she says nothing at all about what happened to her. She will continue to say nothing – to anyone. As she returns to the world, looking for a job, Julia Mayorga acts with a hesitant wariness that speaks to the trauma that Benita won’t say out loud, and we’re guessing the movie is going to be about how she faces it. crisis.
It does, but not in the way you expect. We register the pain below the surface, but more importantly we see that beneath Benita’s attitude of trying to be confident enough to pull through, she won’t commit to anything – to what she wants to do, to this friend, to this attraction. The film does not engage either. Based on Kathleen Tessaro’s novel, it’s made up of bits that sometimes work and sometimes don’t. That’s because it was designed as a series of actor moments that hold you back when they’re dynamic enough (and there are some really great actors on display here), but it could have used a lot more cohesion.
Benita, despite her lack of experience, ends up landing a job at a posh antique store. Peter (Alan Cumming), the rambunctious dandy who co-owns the place, has fussy standards about everything, but he’s a very nice man, and he responds to how Benita, after doing her homework, reacts to rare items he has for sale. As the person who will interface with the boutique’s high-end customers, she will need to be a host, an art and design history buff, a spokesperson, and a hard-nosed salesperson who knows how to close. a case. As appealing as a setting for a movie is, I couldn’t help but feel that the premise isn’t quite nailed down. If Benita is hiding from the world, why would she choose such a job presentationwhose very nature is that she walks on eggshells?
There is a flashback to her time on the ward, where she hung out with an heiress who heard voices in her head. And then, as Benita prepares to welcome some whimsical customers to the shop, the customers walk by… and one of them is the heiress, Diana (played by Holmes), with her brother, James (David Alexander Flinn) . They are the children of a famous painter, and Diana is quick to rekindle her camaraderie with Benita; the two become friends. Holmes’ performance has a generic element that the rest of the film could have used more of – his Diana is a captivating, engaging yet destructive alcoholic waster, often at the same time because she doesn’t realize what a flake she is.
“Rare Items” charts Benita’s relationship with this warning basket; with Peter, a gentle soul who heals his own trauma (though I love Alan Cumming, I cringed a bit when he drowns his sorrows in martinis while memorializing the partner he lost 19 years ago; sorry, but you mean, “Pass”); with Diana’s brother, whom the film presents as a romantic prospect; and with Peter’s antique shop partner, Winshaw (Derek Luke), who seems to be another romantic perspective, which muddies things up, as the movie itself seems confused about it.
The confusion is symbolized, in its own way, by the pink cup – a memory of Benita’s mother – which is fracturing, symbolizing how life itself is fracturing and we have to put it back together. At the antique store, Peter refers to a Japanese belief that cracks in a vase are part of its value and, in fact, make it more valuable. The same is true for us, the film suggests, when we are fractured inside. But as compelling as that metaphor is, it’s hard not to notice how the shattered pieces of this particular cup keep changing. At first, there seem to be about ten. When the pieces are laid out on a table at the antique store, it looks more like 40 shards, some of which are almost dust. When it’s finally assembled, the cracks in the repaired cup make it look like it’s been shattered into perhaps six pieces. We’re supposed to be moved, but all I could think of was, “Where was the continuity person?”
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