House of Sand and Fog Movie Review

House of Sand and Fog: Theatrical release poster Stars: Jennifer Connelly, Ben Kingsley and Shohreh Aghdashloo, R, Released on December 19, 2003 in the United States under limited release; full release on January 9, 2004, and on February 27, 2004 in the United Kingdom.

So, back in August of 2013, Mareena and I went to a Library Book Sale to celebrate my birthday. I acquired a paperback copy of House of Sand and Fog by Andre Dubus III while I was there. I noticed that this 1999 book was actually chosen as an ‘Oprah’s Book Club Pick’, which is what attracted me to it in the first place. Unfortunately, I haven’t read this book yet because I put it away in a box of books and now can’t locate the particular box that I packed the book in!

The 2003 movie, House of Sand and Fog was fully released in the United States in January of 2004. Mareena and I actually watched this movie when came on television as Friday’s ‘Late Night Movie’ on CBS. The movie actually started at 2:35 A. M., so I suppose that would make it early Saturday morning, right? 🙂

Anyway, the movie ended around 4:35 A. M. – or perhaps it was 4:45 A. M., I couldn’t really tell. Mareena and I both managed to stay awake and watch the entire movie; quite the feat, considering that whenever she and I lie down to watch television, we tend to drift off to sleep after about an hour! Thank goodness that we could sleep late on Saturday. 🙂

Like I said before, House of Sand and Fog was released in 2003 – under limited release – then fully released in 2004. The movie is rated R, and is a drama that runs approximately 126 minutes. It stars Jennifer Connelly (as Kathy Nicolo), Ben Kingsley (as Colonel Massoud Amir Behrani) and Shohreh Aghdashloo (as Nadereh “Nadi” Behrani). This film was directed by Vadim Perelman, and was produced by Vadim Perelman and Michael London.

Who Plays Kathy Nicolo – Recovering Drug Addict and Evicted Home Owner?

Jennifer Lynn Connelly was born in Cairo, New York (in the Catskills Mountains) and began her career as a child model at ten years old. Her mother, Ilene, was an antiques dealer and her father, Gerard, was a clothing manufacturer. Jennifer grew up in Brooklyn Heights, just across the Brooklyn Bridge from Manhattan, except for the four years she and her parents spent in Woodstock, New York due to Gerard’s severe asthma (the Connellys moved in 1976 to escape the city smog, although they returned to Brooklyn Heights in 1980.

Jennifer began appearing in print advertising before moving on to television commercials, and she had revealed in an interview with The Guardian, that although she had done some modeling for Seventeen Magazine, among others, she had no aspirations to become an actor. She appeared on the cover of several issues of Seventeen in 1986 and 1988. In December of 1986, Jennifer recorded two pop songs for the Japanese market: Monologue of Love and Message of Love. She actually sang in phonetic Japanese because she didn’t speak the language.

Around this time, her mother started taking her to acting auditions. Jennifer’s first role was in a 1982 episode of the British horror anthology television series ‘Tales of the Unexpected’, which ran from 1979 to 1988. In another audition, she was required to dance a ballet routine. During that audition, Jennifer, who had no ballet training, imitated a ballerina. Her performance, and the similarity of her nose to Elizabeth McGovern’s (who played the character as an adult), led to her landing the role of a young Deborah Gelly – Jennifer’s movie debut – in Sergio Leone’s 1984 gangster epic Once Upon a Time in America. Although she had very little screen time in the movie, the few minutes that she spent on-screen were just enough to showcase Jennifer’s talent.

She was then signed to play the starring role in Dario Argento’s 1985 thriller Phenomena, which despite being incredibly popular in Europe, was heavily cut for its American distribution. Jennifer co-starred with Jason Priestley in the music video for the Roy Orbison’s song I Drove All Night. Although he had recorded the song in 1987, his rendition was released as a posthumous single in 1992.

Jennifer enrolled in Yale, and then transferred two years later to Stanford; where she trained in classical theater and improvisation, studying with the late drama coach Roy London, actor Howard Fine, and actor/director Harold Guskin. The late 1980s saw Jennifer Connelly star in one hit and in three lesser seen films. Among the latter films, she played a ballerina in the 1989 Italian fantasy film, Étoile, and a self-absorbed college freshman in the 1988 comedy/drama, Some Girls. Jennifer’s breakout role was as Sarah in Jim Henson’s 1986 fantasy film Labyrinth.  Although the movie was a disappointment at the box office, and The New York Times panned her performance, Labyrinth later became a cult classic.

Encouraged by her parents to pursue her acting career, Jennifer soon left college and returned to the movie industry in 1990. In that same year, she was cast as Gloria Harper in Dennis Hopper’s The Hot Spot. While the movie was a box office flop, Jennifer’s performance was praised. Jennifer Connelly really became a household name after starring in the 1991 action/adventure film, The Rocketeer. Critics saw this movie as a top-quality homage to the old films of the 1930s, in which the likes of Errol Flynn starred. After that, Jennifer made Career Opportunities in 1991; The Heart of Justice in 1992; Mulholland Falls in 1996; and Inventing the Abbotts in 1997.

In 1998, she starred in the science fiction film Dark City, which didn’t break any box office records but received very positive reviews. She starred as Catherine Miller in the short-lived television series ‘The $treet’ which ran from 2000 to 2001. She played the main role in the memorable and dramatic love story Waking the Dead, and a breakthrough performance followed in the independent film Requiem For a Dream – a role that earned her a Spirit Award Nomination in 2000.

Jennifer followed this role with the 2000 movie Pollock, in which she played Jackson Pollock’s mistress, Ruth Klingman. She co-starred with Russell Crowe in Ron Howard’s 2001 film A Beautiful Mind; which tells the true story of John Nash – a mathematician who despite being diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic, won the Nobel Prize in 1994. She played John Nash’s wife, Alicia and won a Golden Globe, BAFTA, AFI and an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress.

Jennifer Connelly lives in New York and speaks fluent French and Italian. She enjoys physical sports such as swimming, gymnastics, and bike riding. Jennifer is also very much an outdoors person who enjoys camping, hiking and walking, and is interested in quantum physics and philosophy. Her favorite colors are cobalt blue, forest green, and “very pale green/gray – sort of like the color of the sea”. She also likes to draw.

Who Plays Colonel Massoud Amir Behrani – Former Iranian Army Officer and Recent Immigrant, a New Home Owner Now Living in San Francisco?

Ben Kingsley was born Krishna Pandit Bhanji on New Year’s Eve in Snainton, North Riding of Yorkshire – although he grew up in Pendlebury, near Manchester. He is the son of Anna Lyna Mary (nĂ©e Goodman) an actress and model who appeared in films in the 1920s and 1930s, and Rahimtulla Harji Bhanji, a medical doctor. His father, born in Kenya, was of Gujarati Indian Ismaili Muslim Khoja decent, and had moved to Britain from Zanzibar at the age of fourteen. Ben’s mother was British.

Ben Kingsley began his acting career in 1966 – mostly in amateur dramatics while in college in Manchester. He made his professional stage debut upon graduation, at age 23. In 1967 he made his London West End theatre debut at the Aldwych Theatre. He was spotted by British music producer and manager Dick James, who offered to mold Ben into a pop star, but he chose to join the Royal Shakespeare Company instead, after an audition before the legendary theatre, film and television director, Sir Trevor Nunn. Devoting himself almost exclusively to stage work for the next 15 years, he made his Broadway debut in 1971 with the Royal Shakespeare Company. He went on to play Mosca in Peter Hall’s 1977 production of Ben Jonson’s Volpone for the Royal National Theatre, and was in Peter Brook’s acclaimed production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. He also starred in the role of Willy Loman in a 1982 production of Death of a Salesman in Sydney, Australia opposite Mel Gibson.

It was around this time, he changed his name from Krishna Pandit Bhanji to Ben Kingsley, fearing that a foreign name would hamper his career; he took his stage surname from his paternal grandfather’s – an Indian spice trader from Zanzibar’s nickname, “King Clove”. He made the transition to film roles fairly early, making his debut in the 1972 British thriller Fear is the Key, as Royale. He continued starring in bit roles in both film and television, including a role as Ron Johnson on the soap opera ‘Coronation Street’ from 1966 to 1967 and regular appearances as a defense counsel in the long-running British legal television series ‘Crown Court’, which aired from 1972 to 1984. He also starred as Dante Gabriel Rosetti in the BBC‘s 1975 historical drama ‘The Love School’, which was broadcast in the United States as ‘The Brotherhood‘. Ben also played the title character in the BBC‘s 1985 adaption of ‘Silas Marner’, which was broadcast in the United States during Season 16 of ‘Masterpiece Theatre’.

In a career spanning over four decades, Ben Kinsley has won an Oscar, a Grammy, a BAFTA, two Golden Globes and Screen Actors Guild Awards. He is perhaps best known for his starring role as Mohandas Gandhi – Mahatma Gandhi – in the 1982 film Gandhi, for which he won an Academy Award for Best Actor. He is also known for his performances in the 1988 comedy, Without a Clue (as Dr. Watson alongside Michael Caine’s Sherlock Holmes); the 1991 crime drama Bugsy, for which he garnered an Academy Award Nomination for Best Supporting Actor, Schindler’s List and Searching For Bobby Fischer in 1993, as well as Death and the Maiden in 1994.

Ben Kingsley has been married four times; most recently in 2007 to the Brazilian actress Daniela Lavender. He has four children: Jasmin Bhanji Kingsley, an artist, and Thomas Kingsley, an actor; with his first wife, actress Angela Morant; and Edmund and Ferdinand Kingsley, both actors; with his second wife, actress and theatrical director Alison Sutcliffe.

He was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2000; and knighted in the 2002 New Year Honours – the award announcements coming on Ben Kingsley’s fifty-eighth birthday; December 31, 2001. In May 2010, Sir Ben was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Who Plays Nadereh “Nadi” Behrani – Colonel Massoud Amir Behrani’s Wife?

After establishing a successful theatre and film career in Iran, Shohreh Aghdashloo moved to England during the Iranian Revolution in 1979. She subsequently became a United States citizen. She began acting at the age of eighteen, and following numerous starring roles on the stage she was offered her first film role in Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami’s Gozāresh (The Report), which won the Critics Award at the Moscow Film Festival. Shohreh’s next film was Shatranje Bad (loosely translated as: Chess With the Wind), directed by Mohammad Reza Aslani, which screened at several film festivals. Both of these films were banned in her home country; but, in 1978, Shohreh Aghdashloo won acclaim for her performance in Sooteh Delan (Broken Hearts), directed by Iranian filmmaker Ali Hatami, which established her as one of Iran’s leading actresses.

She was married to the Iranian painter, author, art critic, art historian and graphic designer, Aydin Aghdashloo – an ethnic Azerbaijani – from 1971 to 1979. The couple divorced in 1979, and Shohreh moved to Windermere, Cumbria, England, where she completed her education. She earned a Bachelor’s Degree in International Relations and still owns a separate vacation villa that she attends during the summer months of the year. She continued to pursue her acting career, however, which soon brought her to Los Angeles.

Shohreh Aghdashloo married actor/playwright Houshang Touzie in 1987, and they have a daughter who was born in 1989. She has since performed in a number of Touzie’s plays, successfully taking them to national and international stages, primarily in the Iranian community.

Shohreh made her American film debut in 1989 in a starring role in Guests of Hotel Astoria. Her television debut came in 1990 in a guest role in the 25 September, two-hour episode of NBC’s television series ‘Matlock’, titled ‘Nowhere to Turn: A Matlock Mystery Movie’, in which she played a saleslady and was credited for this simply as Shohreh. She returned to American television three years later when she played Malika (wife of the storekeeper Rashidi) in a 1993 episode of the popular comedy series ‘Martin’; credited under her maiden name of Shorhreh Vaziri.

After seven years, she returned once again to the American film industry in 2000, starring in the critically acclaimed Surviving Paradise, the first English language Iranian-American feature film released in the United States, written and directed by the Iranian-American movie director Kamshad Kooshan. Having been shown at major International Film Festivals, Surviving Paradise went on to become one of the most well received Iranian films in the U.S.

Shohreh Aghdashloo made a brief two episode appearance in the short-lived Honduran television series ‘The Honduran Suburbs’ in 2001. In that same year, she played an exiled actress in the movie America so Beautiful and played the main character’s mother in the 2002 drama Maryam. She was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for House of Sand and Fog, however the award was won by RenĂ©e Zellweger for Cold Mountain.Shohreh plays the lead character, Zahra Khanum, in the 2008 American Persian-language drama The Stoning of Soraya M., based on the late French-Iranian journalist, war correspondent, and novelist Freidoune Sahebjam’s 1990 book La Femme LapidĂ©e (The Stoning of Soraya M.: A True Story). The movie was released in the United States in June of 2009 and marked the first time during her career in America where she played a leading character in a major feature-length motion picture. On September 29, 2009, Shohreh won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie for her supporting role in HBO‘s 2008 original miniseries ‘House of Saddam’.

Her other credits include narrating and producing a documentary ‘Mystic Iran: The Unseen World‘, narrating the PBS documentary ‘Iran: A Celebration of Art and Culture’, narrating the audiobook version of Inside the Kingdom: My Life in Saudi Arabia by Carmen Bin Ladin and lending her vocal talents to animated movie Babak and Friends – A First Norooz. She has also voiced Admiral Shala’Raan vas Tonbay, a character in the 2010 science fiction video game ‘Mass Effect 2’; a role which she reprised for the 2012 sequel ‘Mass Effect 3’. In June of 2013, Shohreh Aghdashloo’s autobiography The Alley of Love and Yellow Jasmines was released through Harper Collins.

My Review of the Movie Adaptation of Andre Dubus III’s House of Sand and Fog

I have to say that while I haven’t actually read the book, I thought that this was a very powerful movie. It just showed me how bureaucratic mistakes can lead to so much pain and heartbreak for so many other people, and while the ‘Powers That Be’ may certainly only be doing their job; that doesn’t mean they necessarily care to hear about someone’s personal problems or personal issues. For some bureaucrats, sympathy for another person’s plight simply has no place in their thinking when making important legal decisions. While I certainly agree with this policy in reality, sometimes showing a little compassion can ease some of the tension in a situation.

I think that all the actors were well-suited to their respective parts; in my opinion, Ben Kingsley was superb as Colonel Massoud Amir Behrani; he was just so dignified, and believable in his role. His final scene in the movie was so much more shocking to me after I learned from Mareena that Sir Ben had actually physically done everything himself, and that while there were paramedics present on the set to assist him if he passed out, it was still a very dangerous thing for him to have done.

I think House of Sand and Fog absolutely deserved an A+! It was definitely worth staying awake until nearly 5:00 A. M. to watch this movie. Mareena and I could always sleep late on Saturday – and we did – to make up for going to bed so late!

Till we Meet Again, Glow Brightly as Moonlight

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