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A view on Blu-ray and DVD video by Leonard Norwitz

Two Girls and a Guy [Blu-ray]

 

(James Toback, 1997)

 

 

 

 

 

Review by Leonard Norwitz

 

Studio:

Theatrical: Edward R Pressman

Blu-ray: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

 

Disc:

Region: A

Runtime: 1:25:39.633

Disc Size: 19,229,342,403 bytes

Feature Size: 15,361,591,296 bytes

Video Bitrate: 18.93 Mbps

Chapters: 20

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: November 3rd, 2009

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 1.85

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video 1080p / 23.976 fps

 

Bitrate:

 

 

Audio:

DTS-HD Master Audio English 2766 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 2766 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)
Dolby Digital Audio English 224 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 224 kbps / Dolby Surround
Dolby Digital Audio English 224 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 224 kbps
Dolby Digital Audio Spanish 224 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 224 kbps / Dolby Surround

 

Subtitles:

English SDH, French & Spanish

 

Extras:

• Audio Commentary with James Toback, Robert Downey, Jr. & Natasha Gregson Wagner

• A Conversation with James Toback – in HD (20:42)

• Original Theatrical Trailer in SD

• "R" rated and "NC-17 Rated versions of the movie

 

 

The Film: 7
Two young women stand outside an upscale apartment building, waiting to surprise their respective boyfriends – only to learn they have the same boyfriend. And what's worse, he began dating them at about the same time and pitched himself to both in exactly the same way. He comes home to find they are now in on his little secret.

Now there are a number of scenarios that come to mind as to how this could play out: tragedy, comedy, irony, slice of life – his perhaps. But what James Toback's (The Pick-Up Artist, also with Downey, and the recent documentary, Tyson) small low budget flic is about at its core is acting – not just what we see, especially from an unbridled Downey, but, you know, like Eleanor Rigby's face that she keeps in a jar by the door. I think it's in one of the extra features that Toback makes the comment that even as children we learn to cry for social effect. It's like a part we rehearse until it achieves the desired effect. We know that many of us try on various phrases of endearment to find the one that either suits us or its intended target. So, how do we know when we are acting or being genuine, and what would it take to move with certainty from the one reality to the other?

Except for a brief bit at the beginning of the movie when a passing lothario tries vainly to pick up Lou (Natasha Gregson Wagner), there are only three characters with speaking parts: Lou, Carla (Heather Graham) and Blake (Robert Downey, Jr.) Once inside the building, the action takes place on just a single set, more or less in real time. Graham and Wagner are gorgeous and tomboyish; Downey is astonishing as he tries to make sense of himself; and, in case there was any doubt in your mind, we see here how our species has survived despite the basic weakness of male ego and his (i.e., our) ability to lie his way out of or into anything.


 

Image: 7/8   NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were ripped directly from the Blu-ray disc.
The first number indicates a relative level of excellence compared to other Blu-ray video discs on a ten-point scale. The second number places this image along the full range of DVD and Blu-ray discs.

A warm, reddish filtration is so strong that we might worry that there is something wrong here. Even the flash of a white shoe in the opening scene outside the apartment building isn't quite white. Once inside the apartment, there isn't a single strongly lit shot. Quite the contrary, most of the movie is shot in indoor shade at oblique angles. Some shots, like the many loving close-ups of the actors, are very sharp and highly resolved. Others are softer, more vague, not least because of the lighting and color. All that said, the transfer has a decided filmic look to it, with natural grain and very little evidence of artifacts, edge enhancement or DNR. The shadows, of which this movie is saturated, are noiseless.
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio & Music: 7/9
Toback's choice of music for his movie is fascinating, but hardly anything could have prepared me for the non-transition from the Brahms Horn Trio to the rollicking strains that set the stage for the opening scene. It shouldn't work, but somehow it does, and very well. The DTS HD-MA mix has plenty of punch for the music when required, but mostly it's there to make the dialogue sparkle, which it does, whether whispered, shouted, sung, or hummed. On the other hand, the dialogue does not quite follow the changes in acoustic space from room to room. Too bad. Except for the goings on outside the apartment, there's not a whole lot to recommend the surrounds, but we wouldn't have expected otherwise.

 

Operations: 4
It happens so often I forget to mention it: You click on something on the menu, we go to that something, but the menu remains. What's that about? And just try to figure out how to access the commentary from the menu: we can brig up the desired pop-up, but then what! I recommend accessing from the audio button on your remote.

 

Extras: 2
First a quick note about the "NC-17" cut. It is seamlessly branched and offers a few additional seconds of hardly what you'd call graphic sex play.

The commentary turned out to be less interesting than hoped. There seemed to be a kind of tug of war between Toback and Downey, where the director would lead the actor to say this or that and Downey would crack wise – appropriately, I thought. Otherwise, the three of them would reminisce and make the occasional insightful remark about intent or acting. Graham was conspicuously absent, but I'm not sure, given the tenor of the discussion she could have set things on a more useful direction

The newer piece is titled "a conversation with James Toback." But it isn't really. We are so used to these things, filmed in the way they are, with the actor looking off at some unseen other person, that we easily forget that a conversation requires two people. The occasional diversions into black and white are thinly disguised artful attempts at breaking up what is really just a self-congratulatory talking head, though a smart one with something to say about how his movie came to be.
 

 

Bottom line: 7
Slender extra features aside, I'd like to endorse this Blu-ray. I assume that the image, as flat as it is, reflects the filmmakers' intentions, the music part of the audio track is dynamic, the dialogue mix is a little odd, though clear, and the film itself fascinating. A word of caution, however. Expect to see presumably authoritative sources getting this movie dead wrong, as in the "tag line" at the IMDB: "Thanks to his two girlfriends Blake is about to learn a new sexual position. Honesty." Give me a break.

Leonard Norwitz
November 12th, 2009

 

 

 

 


 

About the Reviewer: I first noticed that some movies were actually "films" back around 1960 when I saw Seven Samurai (in the then popular truncated version), La Strada and The Third Man for the first time. American classics were a later and happy discovery.

My earliest teacher in Aesthetics was Alexander Sesonske, who encouraged the comparison of unlike objects. He opened my mind to the study of art in a broader sense, rather than of technique or the gratification of instantaneous events. My take on video, or audio for that matter – about which I feel more competent – is not particularly technical. Rather it is aesthetic, perceptual, psychological and strongly influenced by temporal considerations in much the same way as music. I hope you will find my musings entertaining and informative, fun, interactive and very much a work in progress.


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