Substance Of Fire, The

MPAA Rating: R

Entertainment: +2 1/2

Content: -2

As a survivor of the Holocaust, the most vivid memory of his youth for Issac Geldhart (Ron Rifkin) was watching the Nazis burn books in the street. Many years later he's a New York publisher who's more interested in printing serious books than in selling a lot of them. Son Aaron (Tony Goldwyn), who helps run this business, wants his father to publish a trashy novel that could be a best seller, but Issac insists on releasing a four-volume series on Nazi medical experiments instead. While Aaron's siblings, Sarah (Sarah Jessica Parker) and Martin (Timothy Hutton), are not part of the day-to-day operations, they are part owners of the company. Knowing that the firm is on the verge of financial collapse, Aaron convinces them to turn control over to him. Issac responds by leaving to start his own publishing house while refusing to have anything to do with his children. But he also begins to act strangely, and Martin, who has had his own health problems over the years, moves into his father's house to care for Issac. The Substance Of Fire is a potentially emotional story that will probably not move the audience to any great extent. It never really provides enough information, particularly to explain Issac's stubborn attitude, so that we can care about these characters.

Val, the writer of the novel that Aaron wants to publish, also happens to be Aaron's homosexual lover. The two are shown sleeping in the same bed, although there are no sex scenes in this film, homosexual or otherwise. Apparently Aaron's family endorses this relationship, since no comments are made about it. Sarah, who performs on a TV show for children, has a live-in relationship with the program's producer. She is also shown getting passionate in her dressing room with another actor, but stops him before things go too far. Restraint isn't shown with respect to language, however, as the dialogue includes many obscenities and some crude words and regular profanities. Combined with the permissive attitude toward a homosexual relationship, Substance of Fire falls short of the mark for discerning viewers.

Preview Reviewer: Mark Perry
Miramax Films, 375 Greenwich, New York, NY 10013

The following categories contain objective listings of film content which contribute to the subjective numeric Content ratings posted to the left and on the Home page.

Crude Language: Several (8) times - Mild 5, Moderate 3

Obscene Language: Many (27) times - f-word 10, s-word 9, other 8

Profanity: Several (9) times - Regular 5 (J 3, for G sake 2), Exclamatory 4

Violence: Once - Moderate (father and son wrestle)

Sex: None

Nudity: None; near nudity with low-cut dress

Sexual Dialogue/Gesture: Couple passionate embraces

Drugs: Few times (cigarette smoking, alcohol drinking)

Other: Man bleeds from nose; unmarried couple lives together

Running Time: 100 minutes
Intended Audience: Teens and Adults

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