Roommates (1995)

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Released 18-Nov-2003

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Menu Audio
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1995
Running Time 104:32
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (57:31) Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Peter Yates

Walt Disney Studios Home Ent.
Starring Peter Falk
D.B. Sweeney
Julianne Moore
Ellen Burstyn
Jan Rubes
Joyce Reehling
Ernie Sabella
John Cunningham
Noah Fleiss
Lisa Davis
Rohn Thomas
Karl Mackey
Reverend Zygmund Szarnicki
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $19.95 Music Elmer Bernstein

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
French Titling
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

     There are some movies that, after 5 minutes, you just know where they're going to go. The plot line is formulaic and you feel like you're always ahead, waiting for the story to catch up. To a large extent, Roommates falls into that category. Fortunately, in this case, the mitigation and saving grace are a couple of very good performances. Peter Falk was born to play Rocky - the Polish émigré curmudgeon with a potent work ethic, blunt politics and gruff, tough love. And Julianne Moore works her magic again, playing Beth.

     And so to the story itself. We are brought quickly graveside to meet young Michael Holzcek standing forlornly beside his grandfather, Rocky, as the casket containing his mother is lowered into the ground. Having already lost his father, the now orphaned Michael is taken under the wing of Rocky, in spite of the protests of other family members. He is introduced quickly to the foibles and rituals of his grandfather who teaches him tough street survival with honour. Soon enough we do a quick time jump, and Michael (played as an adult by D.B. Sweeney) is now a young intern at a hospital. He is called by frantic relatives to be informed that his grandfather's apartment building is due to be demolished and Rocky is laying siege inside the building, sitting out water and power cuts, with what appears to be a rifle pointed out the window. Of course, Michael is granted access into the building, and finally convinces Rocky to come to live with him in his new place. Michael has free rent in the building in exchange for teaching English to several Chinese medical students who Rocky instantly dubs "The Communists." In spite of his aversion to the lads politically, dear old Rocky can't resist a game of Gin Rummy, and when the Chinese boys demonstrate a willingness to learn the finer points of the game, he weakens to their charms.

     Time passes. Michael has problems of his own. Although technically competent as a physician, his bedside manner sucks, as is rapidly pointed out in his first encounter with the social worker, Beth (Moore). In that special way that happens in movies, we know that all this tension between them is only going to be resolved one way, and our expectations are not misplaced. Beth and Michael keep on happening upon each other and, of course, start to develop a relationship, much to Rocky's disapproval. They are not playing by the rules of his day, and poor old Rocky feels threatened by the implications of their deepening connection. We're treated to one of those ubiquitous "truth or dare" shouting matches of the Hollywood screen, where the combatants slug out home truths and profound insights in a barrage of high dudgeon. But, good old Rocky, crusty old coot that he is, is the one who galvanises Michael into action to finally propose to the preppy socialist, Beth. The wedding breakfast is a hoot, with our bad-lad grandad finding a new nemesis in Beth's mother, played with prim rigour by the glorious Ellen Burstyn.

     Michael and Beth move to Rocky's old stamping ground of Pittsburgh, and after a serious health scare, Grandad finally concedes to come to live with them again. Our happy family becomes replete with the addition of a couple of adorable children, a few pets, and joyous scenes of domestic bliss. Of course, old Rocky has to find work to feel whole as a human, and becomes the oldest baker in the district.

     Such a picture of the familial idyll so relatively early in a film can only be a portent of doom, and thus, 'tis true - tragedy strikes. I shan't spoil it for you. If you want to see the film, it'd be a shame to mar the experience. If you're not interested, then why would you still be reading? From there, the film snakes through what seem to be token challenges until it reaches its ultimately sentimental conclusion.

     Roommates isn't a bad film per se. To be sure, it's formulaic, but the performances are sufficiently low key to not overblow it into fully cloying sentimentality. Falk obviously has a hoot playing old Rocky, and was born to do so. Moore is completely incandescent, and gives a depth to Beth that makes it a pleasure to watch her. Burstyn is always a delight. She has these characters down pat, but even so, she manages to imbue a real breadth to her role as Judith, such that it's neither trite nor monodimensional - which is a triumph with the material she had to work with. My criticism of Roommates is possibly even a tad unfair. There is a genre of Hollywood Sentiment, and this fits neatly and uncontroversially into that genre. It's certainly watchable. It's also equally forgettable. But it's a pleasant way to forget an hour and a half or so of your life.

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Transfer Quality


     The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, 16x9 enhanced which is correct to the original format.

     The transfer is generally quite well presented, with reasonable contrast levels and acceptable sharpness. Shadow detail is fine and low level noise is minimal, though present. Overall, the blacks and whites are crisp and well defined. The grain level is quite fine.

     The colour palette is quite strong, with good skin tone rendition and no problems with colour blocking. At around the 100:34 mark, some chroma blocking is evident, but it is not too distracting.

     Aliasing is very rare and very mild when it does occur. There are occasional macro-blocking issues that mar midground and background detail, but they are not severe. Film artefacts are minimal.

     Subtitles are clean, clear and timely.

     This disc is an RSDL disc, with the layer change placed in Chapter 6 at 57:31. It is placed in the middle of a poignant piece of music which makes it quite disruptive to the flow of the movie at this point.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


     There are two audio tracks on this DVD. The default is an English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. There is also a French Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded track. I listened to both soundtracks. The French track suffers from the lack of ambient sound.

     The dialogue was clear and easy to understand at all times. There were no apparent sound distortions present in the soundtrack. Audio sync presented no difficulties throughout the presentation.

     The musical score by Elmer Bernstein can best be described as functional, or perhaps, as Harry Chapin once described such things, "potentially harmless." It did its job credibly but unremarkably.

     The surround channels got an acceptable workout, providing a good ambient soundscape.

     The subwoofer was, as would be expected in a film like this, mild to indistinguishable.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


     There were no extras on this disc.


     The menu design presents a still from the film with background theme music, and is static.

R4 vs R1

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

     Both versions are equally good, and there is no compelling reason to prefer one over the other, though local purchasing convenience would point to an R4 win.


     You might describe this movie as a warm Milo for the mind. Its strength resides in good performances by some of the principal cast, an acceptable transfer, and a script that is comforting and familiar. Falk, Moore and Burstyn make this a guilty pleasure for an idle afternoon.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Mirella Roche-Parker (read my bio)
Sunday, January 04, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDSinger SGD-001, using S-Video output
DisplayTeac 76cm Widescreen. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationTeac 5.1 integrated system
SpeakersTeac 5.1 integrated system

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