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.
For all the gory horror movies and violent gangster films I may watch, every now and then I sure can appreciate a chick flick … and as far as chick flicks go, this is one of the all time classics. Julia Roberts, in her breakthrough performance (if you don’t count Mystic Pizza) stars as a hooker who gets picked up by hotshot business tycoon Richard Gere, who then pays her to spend the week with him. Now this could have been a 9 and a half weeks style sleaze fest, but turns out to be a great example of the fish out of water, as Roberts finds herself thrown amongst the L.A. rich crowd and has to find a way of fitting in, and quick – usually with very funny and highly memorable results.
This is a movie that starts out like on thing, perhaps a sexy date movie, then turns into a really heart-warming love story about two people lost and lonely in their subsequent lives, who find escape in each others arms. Awww. Roberts is great and incredibly likable, whilst Gere proves more than his usually ladies man beds them all stereotype, with a surprising amount of depth. Support from the likes of Seinfeld’s Jason Alexander (playing seriously against type) and the always enjoyable Laura San Giacomo (Sex, Lies and Videotape) prove more than set dressing also. Yet this is Roberts & Gere’s show and their chemistry is convincing and well observed. Also for a movie about a prostitute, the story is mature enough not to gloss over the oldest profession of them all, and knows when to hit the viewer when necessary. Add to this a great soundtrack (especially Roy Orbinson’s title track) with colourful direction and plenty of personality – this remains one of the defining movies of the era.
The Blu-ray, whilst not a complete let down does suffer from that eighties / early nineties soft-focus look, but still appears fairly vibrant, especially during out door daytime scenes. Close-ups have a fair amount of detail too, but it is still clear the movie would benefit from a complete remastering. Thankfully, the soundtrack is clear, the music jumps out of the speakers, and dialogue is clear throughout. Extras-wise we get an audio commentary, a featurette, some footage from the movie’s wrap party, a music video and a trailer. Not too shabby.
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