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The Substance Of Fire Movie Poster
Plot, Details & Awards

The Substance Of Fire

Rated R for language.

R In Theaters 12/6/1996 , 101min.
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Plot & Details

In this adaptation of a stage play by Jon Robin Baitz, a successful head of a New York publishing firm unravels after the death of his wife. Isaac Geldhart (Ron Rifkin) is a German Jewish survivor of the Holocaust who has been emotionally scarred by the traumas of his childhood, during which he spent many days hiding in an attic full of books. He has grown into a demanding perfectionist of a businessman, but his company is failing despite a sterling reputation for quality. He becomes obsessed with publishing a four-volume work on the techniques used in the Nazi genocide. His son Aaron (Tony Goldwyn) pleads with his father to try more commercially viable books, especially a hip contemporary first novel written by Val (Gil Bellows), who turns out to be Aaron's lover. But neither Aaron nor Isaac's long-suffering assistant Miss Barzakian (Elizabeth Franz) can dissuade the publisher from carrying out his financially disastrous plan. Aaron calls his two siblings Sarah (Sarah Jessica Parker), a children's TV show personality, and Martin (Timothy Hutton), a college professor, to a family meeting to try to resolve things, but their father blows up. Aaron's siblings sign over their shares in the publishing company to Aaron, effectively freezing out their father, who stubbornly sets up his own company and proceeds with his Holocaust project, which in the end proves a disappointment to him. Isaac's world falls apart as he becomes more belligerent, and Martin moves in with him to take care of him.

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