Written by Tod Williams, based on the novel A Widow For One Year by John Irving
Directed by Tod Williams Starring Jeff Bridges, Kim Basinger, Jon Foster, Elle Fanning, Mimi Rogers
- Running audio commentary with scribe/director Williams, cinematographer Terry Stacey, editor Affonso Gonçalves, composer Marcelo Zarvos, and costume designer Eric Daman
- "Author John Irving: From Novel to Screen" featurette
- Anatomy of a scene
- Making-of featurette
Released by: Universal.
My Advice: Skip it.
The Coles (Bridges & Basinger) are having a bit of a hard time. Their two sons have died in a terrible tragedy which has shattered the marriage. Marion has become increasingly withdrawn and semi-catatonic, while Ted has started having unhealthy affairs with local women who he invites to model for him. Caught in the middle of this is young Ruth (Fanning), their extremely young daughter, who they spawned as an attempt to save their marriage after the chaos. Stepping into the middle of it is young college student Eddie (Foster), who's been brought out to the Coles' place to serve as an intern to author Ted, but instead becomes the pawn in the weird, vague game the couple is playing with each other.
Well, this was a disappointment. There's just something so sad about a movie that feels the need to literally clobber you with the Tragedy Stick from the first frame of the film. It becomes so tediously obvious that Something Bad Happened and Things Are Not Right that you wish they'd just get on with spilling the beans as opposed to belaboring the point. Part of the problem is that you have to actually be engaged with the characters to give a damn about what they're going through. Basinger's much lauded performance basically consists of staring off into space, looking distraught, and romping naked with Foster. Bridges is good because he's Jeff Bridges, and even crap has a bit of a gleam to it when he's playing the role. Granted, there's a bit too much of his gratuitous ass in the movie, but beyond that, he's the main shining star. Then there's Elle Fanning, who looks like what would happen when the scientists who grew Dakota realized that they could make a killing off of their Cute Patent and decided to make a new creature.
Everything just comes off as so wooden that it's more boring than sad. This was apparently only the first third of Irving's novel, and the way it's discussed in the commentary, it sounds like all of the really interesting stuff comes after the closing credits. Oh well. Here the ending brings you nothing but a shrug and a wish to get that portion of your life back. The only really effective scene in the film is Foster's, when he's relating to a shopkeeper about the insane, sad summer he's having. And any pathos that's been built up gets dispelled when we're dealing with a slapstick chase sequence between Bridges and Mimi Rogers. Man, whose bright idea was that?
The features are operating at a great disadvantage because the movie is so pathetic. The commentary from Williams and his team is nice enough--they enjoy a bit of champagne now that they finally have the chance to, but they discuss enough of the book where it sounds like I should have been spending my time skipping the movie and reading the source material. The featurette with Irving is also effective, in that it's just him talking about the adaptation process in general.
The Anatomy of a Scene is hard to watch because they're dealing with the aforementioned slapstick sequence, where suddenly you're playing for comedy and the transition is jarring. Considering it's filled with people talking about what a great idea this was, this one you should probably skip. The making-of docu is pretty basic stuff as well, filled with a healthy does of smoke-blowing, so it's sadly mostly a wash as well.
Basically, this release is a good one to watch if you need a Jeff Bridges fix and you've already seen every other film he's made a bit too often. Apart from that, it feels like it wants to be The Sweet Hereafter when it grows up.
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