The Substance of Fire
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An acclaimed cast of stars shines in this powerful motion picture! Ron Rifkin (TV's ER, WOLF) plays a headstrong book publisher who refuses to "sell out" by releasing anything commercial ... even when his business partner's son (Tony Goldwyn -- BOUNCE, GHOST, KISS THE GIRLS) discovers a sure-fire best-seller. As the father's stubbornness pushes their company to the brink of bankruptcy, the son must convince his brother and sister (Timothy Hutton -- BEAUTIFUL GIRLS, THE GENERAL'S DAUGHTER; Sarah Jessica Parker -- TV's SEX AND THE CITY) to join him in a fight that will save the business ... but may destroy their family! Praised by critics for its unforgettable performances, THE SUBSTANCE OF FIRE is extraordinary entertainment!
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Top customer reviews
While the inside look at the world of book publishing is interesting, it doesn't satisfy enough to offset the uneven plot and totally dislikable characters. Granted, there are some strong performances (Rifkin and Hutton in particular). But who wants to sit for two hours watching excellent actors flesh out totally despicable characters? Only Isaac's secretary seems in any way likable or goodhearted. And the ending is anything but satisfying. One wonders why this excellent cast was wasted on such an unhappy vehicle.
To my delight Baitz adapted his own stage play for the screen and the result was a still compelling and slightly reworked version that, though still seemingly a work that could be "tightened", contained all of the drama and angst that I saw on stage.
SUBSTANCE OF FIRE is a potentially marvelous film, character-rich with truly superb performances by the entire cast,no exceptions.You will know these people when you are finished. The film concerns itself with a Jewish holocaust survivor,Isaac Geldhart( an amazing Ron Rifkin) and his three grown children. Geldhart has for years run a successful publishing firm that in the last six years has failed to have a best-seller.The oldest son,Aaron, an aspiring author himself sees a new vision for the firm to publish what sells. Isaac sees this as total compromise and will not "sell out." The other two siblings Sarah ( Sarah Jessica Parker) and the youngest Martin (Timothy Hutton) agree that the father needs to change his views or face ruining the family business. The three children combine their stock shares together in order to gain Aaron control of the firm. This starts a terrible all out war with Isaac who starts a rival firm that will publish only the most expensive and socially conscious works of "true art." These works, as important as they might be, simply do not sell, whereas Aaron's firm prospers.The family is also confronted with the oncoming dementia of Isaac and Martin's reoccurance of Hodgkin's Disease. This is where the play faltered, and this is still where the screenplay stumbles. But, having said that, the acting by all of the principle players is positively stellar. Rifkin,Goldwyn,Parker,Hutton and even Eric Bogosian, Roger Rees and stage star Debra Monk really breathe great depth of emotion into each of their characters for high drama about a family whose loyalties and love are stretched to the limit.
Acting-wise, this is truly a first rate film. The screenplay still needs more focus,especially in the second part of the film.There is so much wonderful raw material in this film.This, though, does not take away from the overall powerful work and subject matter of commercialism and family dynamics.
Jon Robin Baitz didnot fade away as a writer,though, as he wrote for WEST WING and the current ABC series BROTHERS AND SISTERS.SUBSTANCE OF FIRE gives the viewer an excellent opportunity to see a younger work of art by a writer who succeeded on many levels in later years.
Most recent customer reviews
The Substance of Fire gives us a fantastic cast and an even better premise, and then does very little with either.Read more
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