(*homocinematically inclined)

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Reverend’s Reviews: Something Old, Something New on Home Video

Way back in 1986, Oscar-winning director Francis Ford Coppola was pretty washed up in Hollywood. His expensive 1982 musical One from the Heart had tanked, and his subsequent adaptations of S.E. Hinton’s young adult novels The Outsiders and Rumble Fish didn’t do much at the box office. Seeking to reinvent himself, Coppola went so far as to drop the “Ford” from his name in the titles for his next project, Peggy Sue Got Married. A gentle time-travel drama without special effects, the film was a modest hit and garnered three Academy Award nominations, including Best Actress for Kathleen Turner’s wonderful lead performance.

This week’s debut of the film on Blu-raydoubles as the movie’s first home video release ever in its original widescreen format, giving viewers a chance to see all of Jordan Cronenweth’s Oscar-nominated cinematography for the first time since its theatrical run. Peggy Sue Got Married was also one of the first features to be shot digitally (following the pioneering Coppola’s One from the Heart), although the process is rather quaintly referred to as “electronic cinema” during the closing credits.

In addition to Turner, who replaced the notoriously difficult Debra Winger, the cast includes such stars then-in-the-making as Nicolas Cage (giving the first of his many odd but ultimately endearing performances), Helen Hunt, Joan Allen and Jim Carrey, as well as terrific turns by veterans Barbara Harris, Maureen O’Sullivan and John Carradine. Jerry Leichtling and Arlene Sarner’s alternately funny and moving screenplay takes a decidedly metaphysical-psychological approach to time travel, which Coppola reinforces through tone and the film’s nostalgia-drenched art direction. There are few scenes in any movie as touching as the one here where time-warped Peggy Sue answers the phone in her parents’ home and unexpectedly hears the voice of her long-dead grandmother (O’Sullivan). Her subsequent emotional breakdown and its handling by her mother (Harris) are beautifully rendered.

Peggy Sue Got Married is a must-see for a new generation of moviegoers and deserving of consideration as a contemporary classic. In fact, I recommend re-watching it every decade or so, as I have done. Older generations’ personal experiences of “browsing through time” reveal how truly and rarely perceptive Coppola’s low-key effort remains.
Reverend’s Rating: A-

Some additional new home video releases that are mostly worth one’s while:

Vanishing Waves
A trippy, sexy sci-fi thriller reminiscent of such 1970’s classics as The Man Who Fell to Earth and A Clockwork Orange. Lukas (played by Marius Jampolskis, who somewhat resembles American actor Zach Braff) is the guinea pig among a team of researchers working to communicate with a comatose woman, Aurora, via sensory deprivation and alpha wave synchronization. The experiment arguably works too well initially as Lukas and Aurora (the very good Jurga Jutaite) bond sexually. Trouble starts to brew as Lukas keeps the full details of their unconscious conjugal exploits secret from his fellow scientists. There is plentiful male and female nudity on display in this thought-provoking, award-winning Lithuanian film, which is beautifully directed by Kristina Buozyte (The Collectress). Peter von Poehl’s electronic-classical fusion score is also a standout.
Reverend’s Rating: B+

White Frog
Family secrets, Christian fundamentalism and Asperger’s Syndrome collide in this sensitive, generally impressive drama from gay director Quentin Lee (The People I’ve Slept With, Drift). Booboo Stewart of Twilight Saga fame is great as Nick, an AS-afflicted high school student who is bereft following the sudden death of his beloved older brother, Chaz (a too-brief appearance by Glee’s Harry Shum Jr.). Nick and his conservative parents, played by B.D. Wong and Joan Chen, find their grief compounded once they learn that Chaz was gay. Nick discovers support as well as compassion towards his late brother when he starts hanging out with Chaz’s friends. The drama seems forced at times, despite or perhaps due to an assist from Tony-winning playwright David Henry Hwang, but White Frog is undeniably moving and inspiring.
Reverend’s Rating: B

This lesbian dramedy co-starring Academy Award winners Olympia Dukakis (Moonstruck) and Brenda Fricker (My Left Foot) was a big hit on last year’s GLBT film fest circuit, wracking up more than 30 festival awards. I missed it then, but upon watching the newly-released DVD have to wonder what all the fuss was about. Sure, Fricker and Dukakis are fine and enjoyable, even if the latter is uncomfortably saddled with some shocking expletives. But the usually reliable writer-director Thom Fitzgerald (The Hanging Garden and the superb AIDS drama 3 Needles) disappoints with a simplistic yet heavy-handed and even illogical script that pretty much spells everything out in advance. Case in point: Hunky, hairy Ryan Doucette plays a hitchhiking, possibly gay professional dancer with daddy issues. What else is new? Reverend’s Rating: C+

Review by Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and Rage Monthly Magazine.

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