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Movie Review

Ruby Baker is a privileged 16-year-old with a wild streak who takes pride in scamming her "adorably clueless" parents. But she and her younger brother, Rhett, are the ones about to be scammed when, after their mom and dad die in a tragic car accident, they’re uprooted and taken to Malibu by their court-appointed guardians, Terry and Erin Glass. Early on, these old friends of the family seem committed to getting the grieving kids back on track. Then things go awry. Conversations are overheard. Strange behavior is observed in their huge, gated, seemingly all-windows domicile. Before Ruby can click her heels three times and repeat "There’s no place like home," she realizes her new digs could be downright dangerous. Evidence mounts to validate her fears. Attempts to notify authorities, ranging from the family lawyer to Child Services, end in frustration. Will Ruby’s sleuthing and raw determination be enough to end this nightmare before the glass walls close in on her?

positive elements: Ruby learns the hard way not to take her mom and dad for granted, and misses them terribly once they’re gone—a valuable lesson for frustrated teens who only see their parents as oppressive members of a domestic Gestapo. Ruby’s mother tries to give her daughter a more complete perspective by saying, "The simplest thing is the hardest, to see what’s right in front of you." Family members and friends console the orphans, offering their support. The regrettable fact that Ruby’s Uncle Jack had allowed distance to come between him and his now-deceased sister implies that siblings should strive to remain close throughout life. Erin offers Ruby a heartfelt prescription for coping with painful change, encouraging her that "this too shall pass." Ruby’s resourcefulness and protectiveness of her naive brother are admirable. We also witness the destructive consequences of drunk driving, plagiarism, drug abuse, employee theft, irresponsible debt, sabotage, deception and greed.

spiritual content: During a church funeral, the priest recites a passage of scripture.

sexual content: Ruby wears a revealing swimsuit. Elsewhere, she makes a sarcastic comment about avoiding academic probation by sleeping with the dean of students. Terry makes thinly veiled sexual advances toward Ruby, wearing his lecherous intentions like a cheap leisure suit.

violent content: Ruby and her girlfriends gasp, giggle and munch popcorn during a brutal slasher movie, which viewers also watch as it plays out on the screen (a machete-wielding maniac chases a girl into a room where she finds the bloodied corpse of an earlier victim before becoming a casualty herself). Battles between Terry and the children (mainly Ruby) get nasty toward the film’s climax (kicking, biting, slapping, spitting, blows to the head, etc.). Terry punches a police officer. A man is stabbed to death. Although we don’t initially see the accident that takes the lives of Ruby’s parents, we get glimpses of a violent wreck via the girl’s nightmares. Loan sharks rough up Terry. A car gets broad-sided by a large truck. [Major Spoiler Warning] We learn that Terry sabotaged the car carrying Ruby’s parents, and he attempts to do the same to the children until circumstances land him in the fated vehicle. He and a passenger plunge through a guardrail at high speed, flip over and crash (the passenger is later shown protruding from the car). Terry fires a gun at the car driven by Ruby, and the girl proceeds to run him down in a bitter act of vengeance.

crude or profane language: Several crass expressions and about 10 profanities, including two s-words and two blasphemous uses of God���s name by Ruby.

drug and alcohol content: Ruby and her friends smoke cigarettes. Terry drinks alcohol on several occasions. At one point, he leads the kids to believe he has downed an entire bottle of vodka and is passed out. Ruby’s parents toast their anniversary. The Glasses sedate Ruby for an extended period of time to keep her under control. [Spoiler Warning] Erin is a doctor who steals drugs from her office for personal use. One evening, Ruby walks in on her as she’s shooting up. Erin’s addiction eventually leads her to—wracked with guilt—intentional overdose.

conclusion: By casting the suspicious-looking Skarsgård (The Hunt for Red October, Amistad, Ronin) as Terry, the film makes it clear from the get-go that this Glass is, morally, half empty. His duplicitous character is as transparent as his house. That’s par for the course in this modest suspense thriller, which telegraphs its revelations frequently enough that it limits both suspense and thrills. The vitreous house of the title does, however, provide a creepy, maze-like atmosphere filled with reflections, shadows (does it really rain that much in Malibu?) and a bone-chilling lack of privacy.

Thematically, it’s nice to watch Ruby evolve from a self-absorbed adolescent into a resourceful young woman who looks after her brother with almost maternal zeal. Viewers also learn that drunk driving, drug use and borrowing money from loan sharks aren’t likely to extend one’s life expectancy. And hey, any film that encourages teens to more deeply appreciate their "oppressive," adorably clueless parents can’t be all bad.

"The irony is," explains director Daniel Sackheim, "Ruby goes to the Glass house, where there is a complete lack of attentiveness and discipline, and where the Glasses have a lifestyle of rock stars and movie premieres, and yet she starts craving her old life and that sense of loving control her parents had over her." Of course, families will have to decide whether or not that message and several others are worth asking young people to feel their way through the darker passageways in The Glass House.

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Leelee Sobieski as Ruby Baker; Stellan Skarsgård as Terry Glass; Diane Lane as Erin Glass; Trevor Morgan as Rhett Baker; Bruce Dern as Alvin Begleiter; Kathy Baker as Nancy Ryan; Rita Wilson as Grace Baker; Michael O’Keefe as Dave Baker; Chris Noth as Uncle Jack


Daniel Sackheim ( )


Columbia Pictures



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Bob Smithouser

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