Things You Can Tell Just by Looking at Her (2000)

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Released 6-Feb-2002

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Dolby Digital Trailer-Rain
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2000
Running Time 105:02
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Rodrigo Garcia

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Glenn Close
Cameron Diaz
Calista Flockhart
Kathy Baker
Amy Brenneman
Holly Hunter
Matt Craven
Gregory Hines
Case Soft Brackley-Transp
RPI $34.95 Music Edward Shearmur

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 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

    I was flicking through a copy of the latest edition of Cleo Magazine the other day (I was waiting to get my haircut, ok), when I came across a full page advertisement for two newly released films on DVD. Now, being in a women's magazine I was intrigued as to what these two films might be considering the bulk of the disc buying public is still the 20-40 year old male. I must say 'Chick Flick' entered my mind, until I quickly realised that I had actually volunteered to review both of them!. Now these two films have one thing in common (and it was for this reason that they were being advertised together) in that they both starred Cameron Diaz. The first was The Invisible Circus and the second was of course this film with the rather lengthy title Things You Can Tell Just By Looking At Her.

    Now this is the sort of film that many of us probably wouldn't give a second glance when scanning the shelves of new releases, but if that's the case you'd be missing a film of rare, touching emotion and subtle grace. This is the story of several women, woven together as five separate, yet concisely linked short stories, all set in the San Fernando Valley area in California. A rather large ensemble cast has been gathered for this drama, and director Rodrigo Garcia has extracted superb performances from all of them.

    First up we meet Dr Elaine Keener (Glenn Close). She is divorced and is taking the day off from her work to care for her sick and elderly mother. Elaine seems very much alone, confident in her medical practice, yet alone and unsure in her personal life. She is being ignored by some handsome doctor at work who won't return her calls despite repeated attempts and all seems lost for the chance of some companionship. She calls a tarot card reader to visit in an effort to provide her with some optimism and hope. The reader, Christine (Calista Flockhart) is remarkably insightful and basically tells Elaine all the things she knows, but not necessarily what she wanted to hear. We also meet Christine later in her own story, as she reminisces with her lover, Lilly (Valeria Golino). Lilly is very close to succumbing to cancer and while providing respite care for her, the two swap stories about their past in an effort to stave off the lonely future that they face.

    The next story sees single bank manager Rebecca (Holly Hunter) discover that she is pregnant to her married lover (Gregory Hines). It seems Rebecca is also unsure of her life and seems to be searching for something. As she is entering work one day, she happens across an old vagabond who after bumming several cigarettes from her proceeds to also provide some remarkable insights into her life - again some that she really doesn't want to hear. She also decides immediately to abort the pregnancy and books into the clinic for the procedure (which is performed by Dr Keener). The impact of the abortion takes a toll on her. The steely resolve and streetwise attitude that she exhibited earlier crumbles away as the full weight of what she has done hits home.

    Rose (Kathy Baker) is a divorced single mum, raising her 15 year old son and busy writing her books for children. She is also lonely, and between the banter with her son about his blossoming relationships and her lack of one, she is also seeking a companion and some direction in her life. When the house across the street from hers finally sees someone move in, she finds herself naturally enough intrigued by the occupant, despite him being a dwarf. Albert (Danny Woodburn) provides the right amount of charm and mystery that Rose may be seeking.

    Kathy (Amy Brenneman) lives with her blind sister Carol (Cameron Diaz). Kathy is a detective by day and caring for her blind sister by night has left her little time to date and get herself into a relationship. Her sister on the other hand has no such hang-ups despite her lack of vision, and dates often, enjoying a voracious sex life. When she starts dating Walter (Matt Craven), this seems to be a trigger for Kathy to finally make the break and try to forge her own relationship.

    Things You Can Tell Just By Looking At Her is a simple set of stories that are all about belonging, companionship, and finding your direction in life, told at a gentle pace. This is really a masterful creation put onto film. The performances all around are simple, yet at times perfectly complex as we follow the women as they make some major decisions in their lives. I would normally hate to admit that I really enjoyed this, but I'll offer no such excuses this time. This is a very good film that deserves a view by everyone in a relationship or those still looking for that perfect partner.

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Transfer Quality


    A reasonable video transfer has been afforded this release, though it is hampered by several minor compression problems, for which I have removed several marks overall.

    Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 it also features 16x9 enhancement.

    Overall detail is excellent. Some of the close-ups of Glenn Close and Holly Hunter in particular had my wife and myself trying to guess their respective ages based on the number of lines and wrinkles on their faces. Shadow detail is never compromised. Grain is evident in many scenes. Check out the examples at 7:06-7:09 and 27:28 for the worst instances. It does improve after the first half of the film. There is no low level noise.

    The colours on offer are not from a wide ranging palette, offering a reasonably muted tone to most of the scenes. No problems at all with bleeding or oversaturation.

    Several MPEG artefacts popped up while watching this transfer. All seemed as a result of poor compression, resulting in a brief break-up of part of the picture in the form of blocks. This occurred in a minor fashion at 13:03 on Glenn Close's arm as she is walking from the kitchen, and more seriously at 17:34 and 36:43, both of these instances when Holly Hunter is on screen. The quality improved significantly after this moment and no further problems were noticed for the duration of the film. There were only a small handful of film artefacts present. None were overly obtrusive

    There is only one subtitle stream present, this being English for the Hearing Impaired. I sampled them extensively and found them accurate and well presented.

    This is a single sided/single layered disc only, therefore there is no layer change to consider.

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


    There is only one audio track available on this disc, being an English Dolby Digital 5.1 effort. As this is primarily a character-based dialogue drama it does not push the boundaries of the soundtrack at all.

    Dialogue is clear and well balanced through the centre channel. There are no apparent audio sync issues.

    The score is credited to Edward Shearmur. A snappy, yet often sombre and reflective feel to the score captures the mood of the women quite nicely. Subtle and in the background is the perfect description for the score.

    There is virtually no surround or sub use. It really isn't required.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


Dolby Digital Trailer - Rain

    Hadn't seen this one before. Nothing to rave over.

Theatrical Trailer

    Running for 2:00 minutes and presented Full Screen 1.33:1 (The mattes have been opened up on this trailer to provide the full screen image). Audio is Dolby Digital 2.0. Quite a decent trailer that doesn't give away any of the story but promises an engaging story nonetheless.

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 Disc misses out on;

    The Region 1 Disc misses out on;

    There is no compelling reason to favour the Region 1 disc in this case. I'd still lean to the local product with superior PAL formatting.


    Films like this one, especially coming out of Hollywood, are pretty thin on the ground, in these days of the all important bottom line. If you do not see this film you will be the poorer for it. It is touching, it is graceful, and it is insightful. The cast carry it to perfection, and it really will leave you thinking about relationships and your life direction.

    The video is excellent, apart from three minor compression problems and noticeable grain throughout.

    The audio is serviceable, but given the nature of the film, does the job intended.

    There are virtually no extras.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Darren Walters (It's . . . just the vibe . . . of my bio)
Friday, February 08, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDLoewe Xemix 5006DD, using RGB output
DisplayLoewe Calida (84cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationHarmon/Kardon AVR7000.
SpeakersFront - B&W 602S2, Centre - B&W CC6S2, Rear - B&W 601S2, Sub - Energy E:xl S10

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