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PLEASE NOTE: Michael D's is currently in READ ONLY MODE. Anything submitted will simply not be written to the database.
Lots of stuff is still broken, but at least reviews can now be looked up and read.
Ordinary People (1980)

Ordinary People (1980)

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Released 4-Dec-2002

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1980
Running Time 119:00
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (60:16) Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Programme
Region Coding 4 Directed By Robert Redford

Paramount Home Entertainment
Starring Donald Sutherland
Mary Tyler Moore
Judd Hirsch
Timothy Hutton
Case ?
RPI $24.95 Music Marvin Hamlisch

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/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
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 remember watching this "extraordinary story about ordinary people" during its initial theatrical release and liking it a lot. At that time, the main hype about the film was that it was the first film directed by Robert Redford in which he does not play a role.

    On the surface, the Jarretts seem like a typical middle class family living in a leafy suburb near Chicago, IL. However, we soon find out that each member of the family is still trying to cope with the recent death of oldest son Buck (Scott Doebler).

    Conrad (Timothy Hutton), the younger brother, is having a hard time dealing with his brother's death. He feels somehow responsible, and has recently tried committing suicide, and has only recently been released from hospital. On top of that, he feels his mother Beth (Mary Tyler Moore) has always preferred Buck over him and is now blaming him for Buck's death. Father Calvin (Donald Sutherland) is the amiable peacemaker who is unwilling to accept the rift between mother and son, which is slowly affecting their marriage as well.

    Conrad tries hard to settle back to a normal life - attending school, singing in the local choir, swimming every afternoon as part of the school team, and hanging out with his friends. He is also starting to form a relationship with classmate Jeanine (Elizabeth McGovern). But he is not eating well and is having problems sleeping at night. Calvin persuades him to see a therapist - Dr. Berger (Judd Hirsch).

    The film gradually reveals more and more about each member of the family and allow us to piece together the current situation and the underlying fears and motivations of each character. This is a deliberately slow-moving film; don't expect lots of action but there are plenty of dramatic revelations and insights.

    This is a very strong cast with excellent performances all around, especially from newcomers Timothy Hutton and Elizabeth McGovern. Donald Sutherland also plays his role with effective understatement, so that when he finally reveals his emotions and conflict we feel the full power of his turmoil. But the surprise star of the film is undoubtedly Mary Tyler Moore. In her first major film role since the Mary Tyler Moore TV Show, she plays a character so completely unlike her normal TV persona that it is a real shock. She walks a very fine tightrope between conveying the reserve and coldness of the character but the vulnerability as well, making us empathic and sympathetic to her.

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Transfer Quality


    This is a widescreen 1.78:1 transfer, 16x9 enhanced, based on a 35mm print with an intended viewing aspect ratio of 1.85:1.

    Given the age of the film, the transfer is reasonable but definitely not reference quality. Detail levels are quite good, but colours reflect the deterioration in the film print. The overall look of the transfer is somewhat dull and subdued, but occasionally colours seem over-saturated - particularly the primary blues of the T shirt worn by the swimming coach (M. Emmet Walsh). I suspect this is due to contrast/saturation enhancement applied during the telecine process to compensate for the fading colours in the film print.

    Surprisingly, grain is relatively minor and is not an issue. The only film-to-video artefacts that I spotted was some telecine wobble during the opening credits.

    I did not notice any compression artefacts.

    There are 11 subtitle tracks present - mainly for European and Scandinavian languages - plus both English and English for the Hearing Impaired. I turned on both English subtitle tracks briefly to verify their presence. The English for the Hearing Impaired subtitle track appears to be a superset of the English track, containing foley effect as well as guttural sounds ("uh-huh" and "mm-mmm"). Dialogue attribution seems to be rare. Accuracy is about average.

    This is a single sided dual layered disc (RSDL). The layer change occurs at 60:16 and results in a slight pause during a quiet scene.

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


    There are a number of audio tracks present: English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192kb/s), German Dolby Digital 2.0 (192kb/s), French Dolby Digital 2.0 (192kb/s), Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 (192kb/s), Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 (192kb/s). I listened to the English track.

    The audio track is mastered at a rather loud level (probably about 4-5dB above normal). The audio track is quite pleasant to listen to and sounds reasonably full range. Extremely loud passages sound rather harsh and on the verge of cracking which is probably a side-effect of the loud mastering.

    I did not notice significant activity in the rear channels even with turning Dolby Pro Logic on so I suspect the soundtrack is not encoded in Dolby Stereo. In any case, this is a rather dialogue oriented film.

    I did not have any difficulties understanding the dialogue and there were no issues with audio synchronization.

    The soundtrack features Johann Pachelbel's Canon in D rather extensively in various arrangements and has been credited for popularizing this piece. Many of the arrangements are based on the rather lush but non-authentic performances by Jean-Francois Paillard. Original music is by Marvin Hamlisch.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    Extras are limited to a theatrical trailer, which is disappointing given that the high regard for this film (it won a few Oscars including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor and Best Screenplay).


    The menus are full frame but 16x9 enhanced and available in a number of European languages.

Theatrical Trailer (2:18)

    This is presented in 1.78:1 and is 16x9 enhanced. The audio track is Dolby Digital 2.0 (192kb/s). The video transfer is rather grainy.

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 version of this disc misses out on:

    The Region 1 version of this disc misses out on:

    Unfortunately, neither version has substantial extras, such as the rumoured audio commentary track that was originally promised for R1 but never eventuated.


    Ordinary People is a drama about a family dealing with the recent loss of a son.

    The video transfer is acceptable.

    The audio transfer is also acceptable.

    Extras are limited to a theatrical trailer.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Christine Tham (read my biography)
Tuesday, November 26, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-626D, using Component output
DisplaySony VPL-VW11HT LCD Projector, ScreenTechnics 16x9 matte white screen (254cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials/Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationDenon AVC-A1SE (upgraded)
SpeakersFront and rears: B&W CDM7NT; centre: B&W CDMCNT; subwoofer: B&W ASW2500

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