Viewed – 16 August 2020
Stephen Soderbergh’s 1989 indie hit that went on to win the much coveted Palm D’or was always a movie that intrigued me. A sort of sexy movie that approached the subject of sex, infidelity and jealousy with intelligence as it focuses on four characters. James Spader plays a guy who comes to visit his old college buddy (Peter Gallagher -While You Were Sleeping) and stumbles upon an affair as well as sisterly rivalry. He also happens to enjoy interviewing women on camera about their sex lives. His presence threatens to unravel the lives of his friend, Peter’s wife Andie Macdowell and her sister, played by Pretty Woman’s Laura San Giacomo.
This very frank, unusual approach to a familiar subject has solid turns from the cast, with a stand out Laura San Giacomo as Andie Macdowell’s vivacious sister, and explores each character well, giving each an ark where they come away changed by the end. There’s a bit of that obvious late eighties / early nineties ‘indie cool’ to it, similarly portrayed in movies like Reality Bites … and it can rely on clichés to propel its story (the pearl earring scene). Yet for a debut, this was an early glimpse of where director Stephen Soderbergh would go, and overall I found it quite effective.
The Blu-Ray from the U.K. division of The Criterion Collection has that 80’s softness but still retains detail and depth, aided by a clear, remastered 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack – although this is more a talkie movie so not a surround showcase. Extras are plentiful as is often the case with Criterion, including a new making of with interviews with Peter Gallagher, Andie Macdowell and Laura San Giacomo (but no Soderbergh or Spader). However Soderbergh provides an introduction and there’s featurettes on his career. We also get an archive interview with James Spader. In addition we get a feature on the sound restoration, a detailed booklet and a commentary from Soderbergh and fellow director Neil Labute. Impressive, for a fascinating drama that whilst not essential is still worth a watch.
(the movie) Good
(the Blu-Ray) Recommended