When I first saw this
movie on the shelf, I expected something that was part Psycho and part
Desperate Housewives—and I couldn’t resist. But after watching it, I wished I’d
tried just a little harder.
Julianne Moore stars as Carol White, a bored
yet dutiful housewife and stepmother who lives in a gorgeous home in California. She
does all the typical housewife-y things: she gardens, she goes to aerobics class, she
lunches with friends, she gets manicures, she attends cheery baby showers. She’s quiet
and sweet in a very Nicole Kidman kind of way. But then Carol’s life begins to change
One day, Carol gets sick. It starts with a little fatigue
and a cough. Then comes a rash…a nosebleed…a seizure…and it only gets worse. She tries
changing her diet and taking medication, but nothing helps. She goes to a doctor, but he
can’t find anything wrong with her. On her doctor’s advice, she even goes to a
psychiatrist, but he just makes her nervous. Then she learns about a seminar for people
with problems like hers, and she’s told that she’s what’s called “environmentally
ill”—she’s highly allergic to the toxins in the air (or, as someone else puts it, she’s
allergic to the twentieth century). The “safe” world around her is making her
increasingly ill. As her problems get worse, she decides that her only hope of recovery
is to go off to the Wrenwood Center, a cultish, New-Age-y camp, run by a flamboyant (and
very wealthy) leader, Peter Dunning (Peter Friedman).
Safe is slow
and hypnotic, capable of making two hours feel more like ten. Though it starts out to be
interesting—and even rather amusing (almost in the Desperate Housewives kind of
way that I was expecting)—the snail-like pace makes it a challenge to keep watching.
Moore gives a great performance, but she couldn’t save the film from being just plain
boring. The characters are lifeless and dull, as is the story.
film progresses, the story gets stranger and stranger. Carol becomes weaker and more
incoherent as she struggles to clear her system of the toxins that surround her. And
what are meant to be deep, thought-provoking, philosophical scenes in the film only make
it more dull.
It isn’t often that I sit through a movie, praying that
it’ll end soon—but I did with Safe. I’ll admit that it does make some interesting
points along the way—but they aren’t nearly interesting enough to make watching it
worthwhile. Unless you’re suffering from insomnia—or perhaps if you’re studying
philosophy at Harvard—it’s not worth your time.