The Substance of Fire - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

The Substance of Fire Reviews

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January 23, 2016
The Substance of Fire is a decent film. It is about a publishing magnate who refuses to publish a book by his son's male lover so the kids buy out their father and run it themselves! Tony Goldwyn and Timmy Hutton give good performances. The screenplay is a little slow in places. Daniel J. Sullivan did an alright job directing this movie. I liked this motion picture because of the drama.
March 27, 2015
gr8 cast in this drama
½ December 3, 2014
Being based on a stage play, it is no surprise that this film is talky and contains little action. It is less predictable that the story will be so slow moving and its themes so muddled and unclear. The acting is excellent, especially a brilliant performance by Ron Rifkin. It kept my interest by virtue o9f the strong performances but it did not seem to ever get anywhere. At the end you are left in search of any meaning for the entire movie/play -- if you succeed in imposing some meaning on it all, you should be moved by this fine set of performances, if not you are likely to feel it was all a waste of talent for a story that said nothing. I barely found some meaning but not anything very impressive..
Super Reviewer
October 26, 2012
Substance of Fire has very little substance or fire. Hutton continued the downward movement of his career while Sarah Jessica Parker hadn't quite gotten the uplift in hers.
September 14, 2011
Some nice performances help cut through the gooey histrionics to make the film somewhat worthwhile.
November 9, 2010
What a piece of crap and it takes a lot for me to rate a movie this low. I like the writing of Jon Robin Baitz (big fan of Brothers and Sisters) and I am a fan of many of the fine actors in this movie but there was no theme and one of the worst endings of any movie I've seen in a long time. Do NOT waste your time.
June 6, 2008
This film is very well acted, beautifully written and riveting to watch. Ron Rifkin is superb as Isaac Geldhart and Timothy Hutton will break your heart with his subtle performance. It was a pleasure to discover an 11 year old film that I've never seen before and remember what Timothy Hutton and Gil Bellows looked like back then...faces to fall in love with.
February 24, 2008
Impeccable and riveting. Jon Robin Baitz is a phenomenal writer. Wonderful performances and direction.
November 4, 2007
The Substance of Fire attempts to echo Shakespeare's King Lear, where a domineering king faces the rebellion of his children and goes mad in the process. In addition, the movie tries to explore other significant themes: survivor's guilt, The pain that a Holocaust-damaged father visits on his children, and generational family rifts. That's a lot to cover in 100 minutes, and sadly, the movie never successfully explores any of these ideas. For instance, while it's certainly plausible that Geldhart would be interested in publishing books that focus on the impact of 20th-century genocides, the movie never builds up any sympathy for Geldhart's cause. You never learn about how what impact his efforts have had over the years, from readers, peers, academics, or even friends in the publishing business. While a play can gloss over this backstory because of the immediacy of its impact on a live audience, a movie requires more explicit backstory. So, when his children turn on him, and when he descends into madness, there's little reason to care. Likewise, there's zero justification for Geldhart's adult kids despising him -- not one example by any character about how he was such a bad parent. Again, with the immediate transmission of emotions in a theater, the intensity of the performance can carry some of the load of exposition, but a film needs more spelled out. Finally, the self-destruction by the youngest son, Martin, makes no sense at all. Why would a man, ill-treated by his father, and in remission from an illness that requires him to avoid stress, volunteer to take over this ailing father's personal affairs, and thus stimulate his disease? If Martin were prone to depression and suicidality, this decision would have been understandable. But you get no hint of this prior to the Martin's ill-fated decision. As a result, you keep puzzling over this when you should be getting involved in the growing bond between Martin and his dad.
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