Movie Review: ‘Rare Objects’

Greetings again from the darkness. The emotional turmoil in the aftermath of being the victim of sexual assault is incomprehensible to anyone who hasn’t experienced such trauma. Writer-director Katie Holmes and Phaedon A Papadopoulos have adapted Kathleen Tessaro’s 2016 novel, transitioning it from depression-era to modern day New York City. At the center of the story are two women, one working diligently to regain some control of her life, and another with a form of mental illness that seems to prevent a return to normalcy.

We first see Benita (Julia Mayorga, “American Rust”) as she is ending her stay for therapy. She has been the victim of a sexual assault that led to an abortion. Her reunion with her mother (Saundra Santiago, “Miami Vice”) is quite awkward since Benita hasn’t told her mom any of what she’s been through … only that she’s taking some time off from college classes. As Benita looks for a job in the old neighborhood, we see her visions and flashbacks – what led to the attack, as well as her bonding with Diana (director Katie Holmes) during therapy.

The owner (Alan Cumming) of a local antique shop takes a shine to Benita and not only offers her a job, but also tutors her on how best to deal with their customer base. One of those customers happens to be the same Diana from therapy. It turns out Diana and her brother come from big money, and he does what he can for his sister. Things get interesting when the shop’s co-owner, Winshaw (Derek Luke, Holmes’ co-star in PIECES OF APRIL, 2003) shows up. Life lessons and philosophical mutterings are sprinkled throughout conversations in the shop, and Benita really values her budding friendship on the outside with Diana.

The lessons here are plenty, and most of them are quite obvious and re-treads from other stories. One can’t ever really go home again and have it be the same. Old friends may run into each other, but the connection is different in adulthood (partners, kids, jobs, etc all change people’s priorities). We can all make new friends, but if the history isn’t there, the bond is only so strong. Alan Cumming offers up the best lesson when he discusses how broken vases can be reassembled, with their repaired cracks creating more beauty and value. Everyone in this movie is broken in their own way, and it’s true that for those who persevere, the cracks add strength and beauty. Julie Mayorga is a rising star, and Saundra Santiago, Derek Luke, and Alan Cumming all deliver their usual strong performances. Looking at bad memories as bad dreams can often help folks recover, but true mental illness is a significant battle for all involved. As a side note, this is yet another movie where the background music is played entirely too loud and often interferes with the dialogue and flow.

Opening April 14, 2023

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