After playing upstanding women in ''A Beautiful Mind'' and ''The Hulk,'' Jennifer Connelly explores her dark side as a recovering alcoholic embroiled in a bitter battle with an Iranian immigrant (Ben Kingsley) over a Northern California house. ''She winds up getting wrongfully evicted because of some tax she supposedly owes that she never owed, and she's struggling to get this house back,'' says the Oscar-winning actress of the story adapted from Andre Dubus III's 1999 novel. ''And in the struggle for it, out of her desperation she sort of slides into self-destruction.''
As the film progresses, the characters (including a deputy sheriff played by Ron Eldard) use more extreme tactics in staking their claims to the property. ''It gets intense,'' says Vadim Perelman, a commercial director making his feature debut. ''But it's not intense like 'Bad Boys II' intense. It's 'Touch of Evil,' it's 'Breaking the Waves.'''
''We all have moments in the movie where our characters are just ugly,'' says Connelly. ''But you kind of forgive them for it and understand it. Which is what I liked about it.'' She also relished the opportunity to deglam for the role. ''I'd come in to work in the morning and they'd literally put fuller's earth in my hair to make it really dull and dirty,'' she says. Did it work? ''It's so impossible to make her look like a skank,'' admits Perelman. ''She's beautiful in kind of a hot, trashy way now.''
The Killer Moment ''Watching Kingsley's character unravel from this really stoic, contained, proud ex-Colonel to this really destroyed man,'' says Connelly.