Birthday Girl (2001)

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Released 29-Jan-2003

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Thriller Dolby Digital Trailer-Train
Featurette-Behind The Scenes
Music Video-Something Stupid-featuring Nicole Kidman and Robbie Williams
Theatrical Trailer
Biographies-Cast & Crew
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2001
Running Time 89:27
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (79:28) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Jez Butterworth
Studio
Distributor

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Ben Chaplin
Nicole Kidman
Vincent Cassel
Mathieu Kassovitz
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $39.95 Music Stephen Warbeck


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

The director of Birthday Girl would have you believe that it is a sex comedy. The lead actor thinks it's a black comedy / love story. The lead actress describes it as a black comedy / romantic comedy / thriller / something else. And I think that's the problem they should probably have decided what this film was before they tried to make it. As it is, the film jumps from one thing to another, and never really settles down. This makes for a disconnected film that is ultimately unsatisfying. The ending just feels plain wrong the director (who is also the co-author) never justifies the ending; it just kind of happens. Not good enough.

One thing I did like the Russian characters actually speak Russian (well, according to Russian-speaking friends, it's almost Russian...) to each other we don't have supposed Russians speaking accented English to one another. Kinda funny, considering that one of them is Australian, the other two are French, and none of them really speaks Russian!

Now, to the plot, or rather the start of it. John Buckingham (Ben Chaplin) is a bit of a loser. He's been working in the same bank branch for 10 years, and was recently given the honour of holding the vault keys after being passed over for promotion. He can't find a girl in England, so he orders a mail-order bride from Russia. Nadia (Nicole Kidman) arrives, and he is dismayed to discover that she speaks one word of English: "yes". Although he tries to contact the agency, he still makes the best of it, as does she. The film is really quite interesting as it explores the problems in this situation (I do wish they'd explored this more it could easily have made an interesting film on its own). But then she tells him it is her birthday, and some Russian friends of hers turn up, and that's when things change...

There is some beautiful scenery, as John's house backs onto some fields and woodland, and he runs through it every morning.

Ben Chaplin and Nicole Kidman turn in rather good performances, spoiled, I think, by poor direction. Nicole Kidman proves, once again, that she has no fear of nude scenes it becomes clear that the bedroom is one place where John and Nadia have no trouble communicating.

All up, this film feels like a wasted opportunity. It's worth watching, but it could have been so much more.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality

Video

This is an excellent transfer.

The original theatrical aspect of this film was 2.35:1 and that's the aspect ratio of the transfer on this DVD. It is 16x9 enhanced.

The picture is fairly sharp and nicely clear. Shadow detail is mostly quite good. There's no significant film grain, and no low-level noise.

Colour is excellent, with no colour-related artefacts.

I saw one or two film artefacts, but they were tiny as you might hope for a current film.

Aliasing is barely noticeable (I think the touch of softness in the transfer effectively eliminates the aliasing). There's only one moment of moire, and it is small. Backgrounds are often deliberately out of focus, but they don't shimmer.

There is just one subtitle track, that being English for the Hearing Impaired. Subtitles for a lot of the Russian dialogue are burned into the print. A nice touch is that the subtitles for lines in Russian are in yellow, while subtitles for English or sound effects are in white (only the white subtitles can be switched on or off).

The disc is single sided and dual layered, formatted RSDL. The layer change is at 79:28 in a black frame between scenes, so it is hard to notice only the pause in the sound really gives it away.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

There's only one soundtrack, English Dolby Digital 5.1.

The dialogue in English is clear and readily understood; I can't assess the Russian, but I gather it is, um, less than perfectly pronounced. There are no audio sync problems.

The score is by Stephen Warbeck. It is rather good, capturing the mood of the movie at each point.

The surround speakers provide some nice ambient sound, and deepen the score nothing extraordinary. The subwoofer does a nice job of reinforcing the bottom end, but it is only called upon intermittently (that's appropriate).

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Menu

The menu is static and silent. It's the same photo as the cover, but without enough detail in the whites Nicole Kidman's top just blends into the sheet.

Featurette Behind the Scenes (5:54)

A little better than the usual promo piece, but with the usual cast and crew interviews spliced together with excerpts from the film. As usual, there are enough spoilers here to mean that you shouldn't watch it before the film.

Music Video Something Stupid (3:16)

A music video of Robbie Williams and Nicole Kidman performing Something Stupid. I was a bit surprised to discover that I recognised the song the line "...and then I go and spoil it all by saying something stupid like I love you..." was what triggered the memory.

Theatrical Trailer (2:04)

A standard trailer, presented without 16x9 enhancement.

Biographies

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

The Region 1 version of this disc was released mid 2002. It has a different menu (one using Cyrillic characters, incorrectly, for effect), but it is still static and silent. Both versions have the behind-the-scenes featurette and the music video.

The Region 1 version is missing:

The Region 4 version is missing:

The transfer quality is very similar, except that colours in the NTSC transfer are somewhat variable (John's orange car is quite red in a couple of scenes), and it displays slightly less shadow detail. The layer change on the R1 is at 66:58, and very nicely done.

All things considered, this one is pretty much a tie: you could be happy with either version.

Summary

Birthday Girl is a disappointing movie given an excellent transfer to DVD.

The video quality is excellent.

The audio quality is excellent.

The extras are not plentiful, but nice enough.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Tony Rogers (bio-degrading: making a fool of oneself in a bio...)
Tuesday, December 31, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDSony DVP-NS905V, using Component output
DisplaySony VPH-G70 CRT Projector, QuadScan Elite scaler (Tripler), ScreenTechnics 110. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVC-A1SE
SpeakersFront Left, Centre, Right: Krix Euphonix; Rears: Krix KDX-M; Subwoofer: Krix Seismix 5

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