Personal Effects & Uncle Update (Or Lack Thereof)

Friday, December 17th, 2010 by Rachel

Nobody ever can explain to you what it’s like to lose a loved one. It’s unimaginable how something unexpected can ripple throughout your life. I’m not as much of a reader as I used to be, so I haven’t sought out books on grief, but I’ve watched my share of movies and TV. Hell, I’ve watched eleven seasons of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit this semester. I thought that Pfeiffer’s character, Linda, in the movie Personal Effects really got it right when she said, “I’ve never even been to court before all this happened. It’s like a foreign country in there, the words they use and how things happen, it’s just… It’s like I got on a wrong plane and got off at some fucked up country I’m not supposed to be in.”


This movie hit closer to home than anything else I’ve come across. When I saw the movie poster on Netflix, I remembered the plot vaguely and thought “Oh yea, this seemed like a more serious I Could Never Be Your Woman.” This takes the concept of an unconventional relationship (not quite Harold & Maude) and puts it in the midst of tragedy. Michelle Pfeiffer and Ashton Kutcher play characters who meet in a “murder grief counseling” group. Not only do they eventually develop a romantic relationship, but Kutcher’s character works to help her deaf, bitter son deal with his father’s death. Even in darkness, there is some comic relief provided by Kutcher’s character who has taken the job of a chicken outside a restaurant. Pfeiffer identifies him as the sad chicken, which becomes a metaphor for his whole existence.


I would recommend this movie to anyone, whether you’ve experienced a recent loss or not. I thought the film was surprisingly well made, considering I haven’t really heard anything about it. I had no complaints about anyones’ performance. Pfeiffer’s always wonderful. I thought that this was Kutcher’s best role since The Butterfly Effect. Kathy Bates succeeds in a small part as Kutcher’s mother, focused on helping organized a charity rummage sale.


What really rang true to me in this film were moments like when the grief counselor says something about family of the deceased finding a crutch in the legal system, but the legal system can rarely ever succeed in providing the answers or solutions. For us, we have NO answers. I’ve been really depressed for the last few weeks. My emails to the media have fallen on deaf ears/eyes probably because the law enforcement is providing them with information that contradicts what the district attorney says.


It has been a year and one month since my uncle, Thomas A. Rice Jr., was killed by a gunshot wound to the head. His cause of death is listed as unknown on his death certificate. Nobody cares what happened to him. A complete investigation was never conducted by either local law enforcement or the ABI, which was brought in to investigate but subsequently denied being brought in. Sheriff Grover Smith of Atmore, AL hasn’t responded to my mom’s emails in nine months. Our world is corrupt and cruel.


But you know what? This movie made me feel a little bit better about it all. And I think that’s pretty awesome. Watch it.


  1. hi Rachel, I just wanted to tell you how I hate you are having such a time getting some closure on your Uncle TJ’s death. I imagine it is hard to move on when you dont have an ending to that part. I am sorry you all have to go through this. I keep you all in my prayers, Brenda

Leave a Reply