I'd heard great talk of this movie for some time before actually coming to it, and interestingly I came to it through the news of Thomas Haden Church in Spiderman 3! The comments about his acting ability and references to this film made me think I had to see it before I see him in an action role. There was also the growing hype about Paul Giamatti, and so I pushed it up to the top of one of my DVD rental queues and stuck right into it.
The biggest surprise of this movie is the complete focus on characters, which is something that is extremely welcome in Hollywood these days. That and the script, which is superbly written.
Giamatti and Church are amazing in this film, and together they seem to have a wonderful chemistry as buddies. It's interesting that in so many films you can see a strong chemistry like this but never really understand if it's real or not. When you see these guys on screen they seem so much like true friends having a great time together, and that is confirmed when you listen to the audio commentary, but more on that later.
When these two guys are together and chatting away you can just hear the quality of the script and see the wonderful acting pouring out of the screen and speakers. The characters are portrayed as superbly real and very natural, and the story is tender and quite romantic - and I mean that in the old school sense rather than just plain getting it on.
It is so easy to identify with the two main characters and some of their situations, and that makes the watching even more of a joy.
It's not the two leads either, there's a great performance from Virginia Madsen who is not only stunningly gorgeous but she's also just as natural on screen as the other two. In fact her character is so real she seems like a real person you'd sit and chat to rather than a film character with some aspect magnified with the big screen.
The film is extremely well edited and combined with the story just keeps the pace going perfectly. Often in these character based stories you can feel yourself willing things to move on and you find that the story drags in places. Not here, every moment has a purpose and every moment any of these characters are on screen you are just dying to see more.
Presented: 1.85:1 Anamorphic
Quite harsh and natural lighting, whole film looks very natural and like a documentary more than a feature film, something which I comes through later in the audio commentary as being intentional. It adds to the films believability.
Presented: Dolby Digital 5.1
There's not much to the sound and nor should there be. To be honest I was so absorbed by the characters I didn't concentrate on what the sound was and where it was coming from, but it's all speaking and character interactions, there's no need for big sound and speaker separation. However the soundtrack is very good, mellow and somewhat more thoughtful.
Presented: Audio Commentary with Paul Giamatti and Thomas Hayden Church, Three Easter Eggs
This was the best part of the whole DVD, seriously, listening to the commentary was more enjoyable than watching the film. The two actors do get on as well as they do in the movie and reflect a lot of the scenes of their characters in their personalities.
It's extremely funny for an audio commentary, and perhaps the funniest I've ever listened to. I could honestly listen to these guys talking all evening, and I hope that they are together on more films and audio commentaries soon.
There's nothing hugely insightful about the film making process or this movie itself, but there is a fair amount of inside information and behind the scenes information. The talk of looking at Madsen's breasts had me creased up...and very jealous.
Unfortunately I totally missed the three hidden features on this disc, so if you've seen them comment in and tell us all what they are and how good they are.
As you can probably guess I'd rate this DVD offering very highly. It's not packed with features but with an excellent film and an even better audio commentary you are getting quality throughout, and that beats a lot of DVD's out there that are stuffed full of dull and pointless extras.
The talents of the three leads are so apparent, and combined with the strong natural film making style and a fantastic script, leaves you with a wonderful movie. Well worth it and highly recommended.