This is the 12th film starring Leelee Sobieski, made in 2001 when she was 17. The genre isn't quite clear. It's a thriller with touches of horror. The opening scene, in which four teenage girls are in a cinema watching a horror film, is the director's way of saying "This is a horror film". I suspect that the horror aspects of the film were cut in the final edit. The original version of the film was 180 minutes long, but the studio told the director it was too long, so he cut it down to 106 minutes. 74 minutes were cut? That's not a cut, it's a slaughter! Despite being a moderate success at the box office, just about breaking even, it wasn't considered financially viable to release a director's cut. That's tragic.
Ruby Baker (played by Leelee Sobieski) is 16, and a popular girl in school. Her brother Rhett is 11. Their parents are loving and kind. Tragedy strikes when the parents die in a car accident on their wedding anniversary. The family lawyer informs the children that they will inherit about $4 million, and it was their parents' wish that they should remain in foster care with their friends Terry and Erin Glass until they're 18.
Terry Glass (played by the magnificent Swedish actor Stellan Skarsgard in one of his first English speaking roles) seems like a good foster father at first. He's a company owner who lives in a luxurious mansion overlooking the beach in Malibu. His wife Erin (played by Diane Lane) is a doctor. They buy gifts to help the children settle in, but Ruby soon notices there are problems. Terry is deeply in debt to mobsters. Erin is addicted to drugs that she steals from her hospital. Ruby overhears telephone conversations in which Terry says he wants to get hold of the children's inheritance to pay off his debts. Worse still, she finds out that her parents died in a car that he lent them, so she suspects that he engineered their death.
When Ruby tries to get help she's kept as a prisoner in the house. At first she's kept drugged in her room. When that isn't enough she's locked in the basement with her brother. I suspect that this is the part of the film where most of the cuts were made. This is where there's the most room for horror-movie-ish scenes.
I like this film, but it could have been better. I really need to see the full three-hour version, if it's ever released. The film studio (Columbia) blames the release date for the film's relative lack of success. It was released the weekend after the 9/11 attack. Seriously! What does that have to do anything? I blame the cuts, and I'll stick to my opinion until I see the uncut version. Columbia Pictures botched up an excellent film.
In his review Roger Ebert praises the acting by the principal characters, especially Leelee Sobieski, but he criticises the bad script. Once more, it's my opinion that if he'd seen the original version he would have been more impressed.
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