Review by Leonard Norwitz
Theatrical: Odyssey Entertainment, ThinkFilm & Killer
Blu-ray: Image Entertainment
Runtime: 100 min
Size: 25 GB
Case: Locking Amaray Blu-ray case with Slipcover
Release date: September 9, 2008
Aspect ratio: 1.78
Video codec: AVC
English DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio; English DD 5.1 Surround
English SDH & Spanish (feature film only)
• Audio commentary by Director Helen Hunt
• Behind the Scenes (11:44)
• Cast Interviews
• Theatrical Trailer
For such a small movie, it is curious to find 13
producers, among them: Helen Hunt, who also gets two
(count them) writing credits for adapting the original
novel by Elinor Lipman. Lipman's novel first appeared
around 1991 and was quickly optioned. Hunt says she had
been trying, mostly unsuccessfully, to bring it to
cinematic reality for ten years. For all her trouble, I
would have thought there would be more to show for it.
It's not that there is anything wrong with the movie or
its adaptation from the book. I think the worst that can
be said about it is that it comes off calculated while
it wants to seem natural and spontaneous.
Helen Hunt not only shares writing and producing credit,
but she also directs and stars in this story about a "39
1/2" year old childless schoolteacher who all too
desperately wants a baby of my own. Adoption is out of
the question. We meet her character, April, on the day
of her wedding to Ben (Matthew Broderick), a nice Jewish
boy, with all that that implies. A couple years later,
and still no baby. And no Ben either. Within minutes of
their separation, it seems, she encounters Frank (Colin
Firth), a divorced father of one of her young students,
and mistakenly (the one unconvincing misstep in the
script, I thought) attacks him for coming on to her.
Hunt has assembled a fine cast here whom I felt were
better directed than she was of herself – which really
means that I felt their performances less mannered. For
some years since her fine work in "Mad About You" Hunt
has relied on certain facial expressions and affected
postures that have the potential of generating an entire
school of acting. What I once found sweet, honest and
sincere I now find calculating and a little lazy. Hunt
does come alive when she gets good and angry, but
otherwise, we've seen all this before, and before that.
I suppose something of the same could be said of Midler,
who hovers just this side of schtick – then again, her
character is a well-known daytime TV host, a la Oprah.
Colin Firth is his usual reliable self-effacing self on
the outside, arrogant on the inside – or is it the other
way round. In any case, the writing for his character
can't be beat with a stick. Frank is likeable and
honorable, and he sets limits on himself and April like
Matthew Broderick – and I admit I can't believe I'm
saying this – steals the movie at every moment he's in
it – partly because I hardly recognize this actor in
this part and partly because his character is so damaged
and yet so familiar. Ben is every dumb guy who thinks he
should, but can't – and when he does, he only does it in
spurts. Ben is as adorable as he is unreliable.
The "she" in the title refers to Midler's character,
Bernice, who arrives out of the blue to announce to
April that she is her natural mother (April always knew
she was adopted, but knew nothing of her bio-parents),
and immediately sets about trying to become a part of
her life. It's not as invasive on Bernice's part as I
make it seem. She is actually a better mother now than
she could ever have been before. Really, the actor in
all this is April – and for obvious reasons having to do
with her own inability to have a child of her own and
unwillingness to adopt.
The script could have gone either way – comedy or
melodrama – I felt it did a good job of living in both
The first number indicates a relative level of
excellence compared to other Blu-ray DVDs on a ten-point
scale. The second number places this image along the
full range of DVDs, including SD 480i.
This is certainly not one of those titles you buy for
the purpose of showing off how wisely spent was your
money. I've definitely seen sharper images, with more
contrast and, so it seemed, greater resolution, on any
number of 480i DVDs. Let's leave it at that.
Audio & Music:
I liked the music, mostly played on guitar David
Mansfield. The music for Smart People was similar in
tone, but I felt more appropriate and more subtly used
here. The audio mix, as would be expected for such a
movie, makes little if any use of surrounds, while the
DTS HD 5.1 helps clarify the dialogue – a good thing
where the word is king.
Chapter thumbnails do not expand and are not titled.
There is a lengthy montage that has no bearing on the
menu selections that hovers above it.
In her commentary and in the separate behind-the-scenes
piece Helen Hunt lets us in on her personal odyssey
about being able to bring this very personal project to
A slight, but decent movie in less than stellar HD. An
excellent choice for a rental.
August 30th, 2008