Feast of Love (2007)

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Released 9-Jul-2008

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Romantic comedy/dram Main Menu Audio & Animation
Audio-Visual Commentary-Descriptive narration for the vision impaired
Featurette-Making Of-The Players: (12:08) Interviews with makers and cast.
Featurette-Making Of-A Merry Feast : (08:06) From novel to screenplay.
Featurette-Making Of-What Fools These Mortals Be : The Shakespearean influence.
Theatrical Trailer- (02:35) Presented 1.85:1, 16x9 enhanced.
Rating ?
Year Of Production 2007
Running Time 97:25
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (64:12) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Robert Benton
Studio
Distributor

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Morgan Freeman
Greg Kinnear
Radha Mitchell
Jane Alexander
Billy Burke
Selma Blair
Toby Hemingway
Alexa Davalos
Case ?
RPI ? Music Stephen Trask


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
English Descriptive Audio Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/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 No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes, Establishing place and character

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

Plot Synopsis

   

"Do you think love is a trick ...
or do you think that it is the only meaning there is to this crazy dream?"
                                                                         Bradley Smith (Greg Kinnear)                         


    Since his Oscar nomination for co-writing Bonnie and Clyde (1967), and then his double win for writing and directing Kramer vs. Kramer (1979), Robert Benton's name has appeared on film credits only once every three or four years. Not all were as successful, artistically or commercially as, say, Places in the Heart, but the Benton name on a film makes it a film that serious moviegoers should see. His new film, Feast of Love, is more than just worth a look, it is a sometimes daring, serious and comedic look at the nature of love.

    Allison Burnett's screenplay, based on Charles Baxter's novel, is populated by no less than ten characters whose loves are explored in the film. In addition there are peripheral characters whose lives come into contact with our "lovers". Set in Portland, Oregon, much of the action originates from "Jitters", the coffee shop owned and run by Bradley Smith (Greg Kinnear), whose wife, Kathryn (Selma Blair) is beginning to feel invisible in their relationship and ripe for the lesbian attentions of Jenny (Stana Katic). One of Bradley's regulars is professor Harry Stevenson (Morgan Freeman), who, with his wife Esther (Jane Alexander), is working through the loss of a son from a drug overdose. Employed in the coffee shop is young Oscar (Toby Hemingway) - "handsome boy, almost pretty" - who has an abusive father, "Bat" (Fred Ward). A new employee starts at the coffee shop, Chloe (Alexa Davalos), who redeems Oscar's life. Add to this already considerable mix a beautiful real estate agent, Diana (Radha Mitchell), who is having an affair with married David (Billy Burke).

    In this exploration of love - the makers like to call it a "romantic fable" - we are presented with two couples who represent great love, both in youth and age. First there is the Stevensons, fine intelligent and committed to each other, enduring the pain of the death of their doctor son. At the other end of the age spectrum, we have Oscar and Chloe, full of optimism and slightly soiled innocence. The middle ground is filled by the "mature" young adults, earnestly and at times recklessly abusing themselves and their partners. The house neighbouring that of the Stevensons is a somewhat obvious symbol of these desolate relationships, as a procession of couples vacate the house, the love they shared having become a ghost of what it was.

    All of this may sound rather contrived, and it is. Every plot is a contrivance of its authors, contrived with intent, be it dramatic or humorous. The problem here is that there are so many characters and some of the contrivances are just too pat and obvious. Amazing, for example, that just by coincidence Bradley and Diana should move into the "haunted" house  next door to the Stevensons. It is also not credible that fashion-plate Diana would wear her ex-lover's shirt to a barbecue, particularly with a button missing. Convenient for plot development - David's wife, also a guest, recognizes the shirt - but hardly believable. What is truly amazing is that, despite this, much of the film does have a startling reality, and this is not solely due to the frequent nudity, just stopping short of "full frontal, male". Instead, the sometimes jarring reality stems from  the at times surprising actions and reactions of the characters. One particular nude love scene  between Diana and David begins as you would expect, but then takes a direction that has tremendous unexpected dramatic force and truth. Bill Burke's character has just entered the screenplay and he seems to be conforming to what we expect, when suddenly, and quite brutally, we are jolted by his actions and what ensues. It is surprising that writer, director and cast have been able to develop the characters to the extent they have within the constraints of a running time of  ninety-seven minutes. With so many characters sharing quite a short running time, it is inevitable that there has to be at least one casualty. In this case it is Fred Ward, whose "Bat", and it is no fault of the actor, is a very shadowy character indeed. This feast is just a little too rich, and it is an unfortunate title - direct from the novel - that has invited many clever quips from reviewers provided with an obvious gastronomical vocabulary. Maybe Tapestry of Love would have been a safer title?

    The performances cannot be faulted. From superb veterans such as Morgan Freeman and Jane Alexander you get what you might expect, and then some. It's always tempting to see Freeman as "God", but he has a sensitivity here that is unusual. Alexander is an institution on the US stage, and here gives one of her best screen performances - simple, clean and warm. Greg Kinnear is creating a portfolio of memorable performances (Matador, Little Miss Sunshine), and here adds another flawed, human creation to his list. There is also excellent work from Radha Mitchell, Selma Blair and Billy Burke (Ladder 49) with special mention to the "young lovers", Toby Hemingway (The Covenant) and the luminous Alexa Davalos (The Chronicles of Riddick). These two could look like unusual casting choices, but their performances have depth and heart.

    Director Benton is served marvellously by the sensitive photography of Kramer Morgenthau, frequently composing memorable images within the wide "scope" frame. Using basically a sombre, earthy palate, colour and light become integral to the movie. The glowing gold of the entwined naked bodies of Chloe and Oscar contrasts with the comparatively sterile coupling of Bradley and Diana, pale and tinged with blue. Another beautifully lit and composed scene occurs when a troubled Harry returns home to his unlit living room, a large detailed dark rectangle. Contained within that rectangle is a smaller brightly lit one, the kitchen where Esther is preparing their meal, Esther who reaches out to the young people to renew her life with Harry. "Home" is a constant image through the unfolding of these characters lives, with the abusive ugliness of Oscar's life with his father, the warmth of the Stevensons, the empty "home" next door, and the dream of Oscar and Chloe for a home "with a foyer". These are more successful features of this film, more subtle and germane to the characters and the dramatic structure of the plot, rather than a contrived coincidence, conveniently tacked on and difficult to accept.

    Noteworthy also is the most attractive original score by Stephen Trask (Hedwig and the Angry Inch). Sensitive and unobtrusive, beautifully recorded and reproduced making generous use of the surrounds and the subwoofer track, the music gently supports the unfolding human comedy. Comedy, yes, in the Shakespearean sense, for we have before us an intricate tapestry of human folly, tinged with sadness.

    Director Benton and screenwriter Burnett have achieved much that is sensitive, insightful and illuminating in bringing this most human story to the screen. Some of the ingredients - that awful "feast" imagery again - are a bit dubious, but like many meals, prepared, served and shared with love, the warmth and satisfaction of Feast of Love stays with you. Watch the "extras" and you just might be tempted to go back for seconds!
 

 

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The video transfer of this movie is excellent.
  
    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, 16x9 enhanced.
    Unusually effective use is made of the wide, anamorphic image. There is imaginative use made of the wide frame in both exterior and interior shots, with numerous images striking in their composition.
    
    The transfer is extremely sharp and clear throughout, providing a quite lustrous and beautiful image.
    Shadow detail is excellent, particularly in the detailed, darkened interiors.
    There is no low level noise.
    Colour is used imaginatively throughout the film, with the beautifully muted exteriors and interiors. There is stark contrast in some scenes which are almost devoid of colour.
    Skin tones are excellent - and in a number of scenes there is lots of skin. The tones change, depending on the scene, ranging from golden youth, through perfectly natural to palely cold and sterile.
    There were no MPEG artefacts noted, and there were no film artefacts.

    The English Descriptive Subtitles for the Hearing Impaired were sampled and found to be accurate and excellent in providing the ambience of the film.

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    The layer change occurs at 64:12 and is seamless.

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

Audio

    The audio is excellent, rich and beautifully textured.
    There are three audio tracks:
                                               English Dolby Digital 5.1 encoded at 448  Kbps;
                                               English Dolby Digital 2.0 encoded at 224 Kbps; and
                                               English Descriptive Narration for the Vision Impaired in Dolby Digital 2.0 encoded at 224 Kbps.
    The major viewing of the film was made using the Dolby Digital 5.1 track.
    The Dolby Digital 2.0 track was sampled and was of a comparable standard, though naturally more limited.

    The extensive dialogue was always beautifully clear.
    There were no drop-outs and no sync problems.
                      
    The surround channels were also active in providing a warm ambience to the scenes. There was quite pleasing movement across the front sound stage during a number of scenes.

    Stephen Trask's tender orchestral score is served beautifully by the extensive use of the surround channels.
    Although not the kind of film in which you would expect to hear a great deal of sub-woofer activity, the films outstanding score is given a beautiful warm bass resonance.

    The Descriptive Narration for the Vision Impaired was sampled. The narration is comprehensive and provides an excellent detailed description of the on screen images. There were things I hadn't noted - such as that all the photos on the table in the opening scene were of "the same boy". Also interesting is that we are told that the Morgan Freeman character is "grey haired" , but not that he is black. It was great to see this fine actor play a role in which race was absolutely not an issue, and the fact that it is not mentioned here cements that happy fact.
       
    

    

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

Extras

   

Menu

    The Main Menu is presented with full motion and a lovely sample of the score in Dolby Digital 2. It is presented 1.85:1, 16x9 enhanced.
    The options presented are :  Play Film
                                               Resume Film
                                               Scene Select : There are twenty-two cues presented on eight screens. Each screen has full motion thumbnails plus music
                                               Set-Up : Options are : Audio : Dolby Digital 5.1
                                                                                              Dolby Digital 2.0
                                                                                   Captions : On/Off : English Descriptive Subtitles for the Hearing Impaired.
                                                                                   Audio Description : On/Off : English Descriptive Narration for the Vision Impaired.
                                              Extras : Three short documentaries : For details see below.
                                                            Options are :   Play All
                                                                                  The Players
                                                                                  A Merry Feast
                                                                                  What Fools These Mortals Be
 
                                              Theatrical Trailer
                                               
    
   

Documentaries
These three documentaries are more correctly one longer piece divided into three, each one concentrating on one aspect of the film : the actors, the transition from novel to screenplay, and the Shakespearean influences.

In all three segments almost all of the interviews are presented 1.33:1, 4x3.
In the first segment, The Players, excerpts from the film are presented 2.35:1, matted.
In segment two and three the excerpts are presented 2.35:1, 16x9 with a couple of interesting "morphs" happening at the transitions.
Audio in all three is Dolby Digital 2.0.


   

Documentary : The Players (12:08) :
    
    Interesting, though brief, comments from director Robert Benton, the producers, Morgan Freeman, Alexa Davalos, Toby Hemingway, Greg Kinnear, Selma Blair, Radha Mitchell and Jane Alexander. Excellent visual quality.


Documentary : A Merry Feast (08:06) :

    Eight fascinating minutes of insight into the transition of Baxter's novel into Burnett's screenplay featuring Burnett and the producers. The focus is mainly on the number of changes made to the novel in order to make it more filmic.


Documentary : What Fools These Mortals Be (08:08) :
   Very interesting eight minutes examining, or explaining, the influence of  William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream on the final film. You may feel that comparisons are being stretched at times, but it is absorbing and made me want to go straight back and watch the film again.

Theatrical Trailer: (02:26) :

    Original theatrical trailer, presented 1.85:1, 16x9 enhanced. A far above average modern trailer, giving a good idea of what to expect.

R4 vs R1

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

    The Region 4 release misses out on : Spanish audio track , Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround Encoded
                                                            French audio track, Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround encoded
                                                            Spanish Subtitles
                                                            Full Screen version, presented 1.33:1, 4x3 transfer

 
    The Region 1 release is a double sided, single layer disc, with both a widescreen enhanced version and a 1.33:1, 4x3 version.
    This release appears to miss out on : the two shorter documentaries, having only the twelve minute The Players.
                                                            English Descriptive Narration for the Hearing Impaired  
                                                            Theatrical trailer.

Summary

    In summary Feast of Love may sound like a rather muddled romantic comedy/drama that is just another collection of smalltime suburbanites colliding with one another in romantic confusion. The name Robert Benton should be a signal to expect more. Almost totally successful in avoiding clichéd characters and situations, what we get is a bittersweet dissertation on the joys, pains and follies of love. There may be too much philosophising - easy to take, though, from Mr Freeman - but this is easily outweighed by the films honesty and humanity. Beautifully produced and acted, it all looks and sounds glorious in full anamorphic widescreen.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Garry Armstrong (BioGarry)
Thursday, July 10, 2008
Review Equipment
DVDOnkyo-SP500, using Component output
DisplayPhilips Plasma 42FD9954/69c. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080i.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-DS777
SpeakersVAF DC-X fronts; VAF DC-6 center; VAF DC-2 rears; LFE-07subwoofer (80W X 2)

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