Isn't She Great (2000)

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Released 10-Sep-2001

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy Main Menu Audio
Production Notes
Biographies-Cast & Crew
Theatrical Trailer
Featurette-B-Roll
Interviews-Cast
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2000
Running Time 91:15 (Case: 95)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (33:17) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Andrew Bergman
Studio
Distributor

Magna Home Entertainment
Starring Bette Midler
Nathan Lane
Stockard Channing
David Hyde Pierce
Amanda Peet
John Cleese
Case C-Button-Version 2
RPI $9.95 Music Burt Bacharach


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/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 None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    Isn't She Great is a charming and delightful film loosely based on the life, loves and career of popular novelist Jacqueline Susann (whose best-selling novels include Valley of the Dolls, The Love Machine and Once is Not Enough). The film is inspired by an article about her in the New Yorker magazine writer by one of her former editors Michael Korda, who was also involved (and credited) in the production.

    Some critics have slammed the film as being too over-the-top, unrealistic, trashy, vulgar, lacking in substance, frivolous, and a number of other unflattering objectives. Well, so were her books, and millions of people bought and enjoyed them (she is still the only writer ever to have three novels in a row hit #1 on the best-seller lists). The secret to appreciating the film is not to take it too seriously, and to think of it as a parody of one of her novels.

    The story is told (partially using voice-overs) from the perspective of Jackie's husband Irving Mansfield (Nathan Lane). Irving is a press agent and publicist who married Jackie (Bette Midler) and then spent his entire life promoting her and helping her become famous. When it is clear that her career is going nowhere fast, Irving suggests that she become a writer. Borrowing from her experiences in the entertainment industry, she wrote Valley of the Dolls (the film implies this was her first book whereas in reality her first book was called Every Night, Josephine! and it was about her poodle).

    Because of the trashy and racy content, no reputable publisher would accept the book until hip publisher Henry Marcus (John Cleese) decided to give her a chance. Her editor Michael Hastings (David Hyde Pierce) - obviously a reference to Michael Korda himself - tries vainly to make the book more respectable until he gradually realises people like the book as it is. The film also features Stockard Channing as Jackie's best friend Florence Maybelle (in real life Jackie was very close to Helen Gurney Brown).

    In the meantime, Jackie learns that she has developed breast cancer and her young son is autistic. Despite these blows to her personal life, she is determined to realise her ambitions to be a household name and tirelessly went on a cross-country promotional tour. Using innovative promotional techniques, she soon won over the hearts and minds of booksellers around the country and her book became a number one best-seller.

    Her husband Irving was not comfortable with her success and searches for meaning in his life. What will happen to them? Well, if you know the life story of Jacqueline Susann then I'm sure the ending will come as no surprise but I was moved by it nevertheless and my eyes were definitely moist.

    I really enjoyed the film. The plot obviously skirts around the less savoury aspects of Jackie's life, such as the real reason why their marriage broke up for a period (Jackie wasn't exactly faithful to her marriage vows), Jackie's bisexuality (which did come across strongly in her novels), and her violent tendencies (she has reputedly punched up a few of her critics). Despite the story being told from Irving's perspective, he is no more than a cardboard character in this film - we never get to understand what his true motivations and desires are other than loving his wife and wanting to support and pamper her.

    Bette Midler obviously is born to act in the role and David Hyde Pierce and John Cleese both play minor but enchanting parts. The film is directed by Andrew Bergman based on a screenplay written by Paul Rudnick.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    This a fairly decent widescreen 16x9 enhanced transfer presented pretty close to the intended aspect ratio of 1.85:1.

    Given that it's such a recent film (and such a short one too at 91:15 minutes spanned over a dual-layered disc), the transfer quality is quite high. Sharpness, black levels and colour saturation are all more than acceptable.

    The only issue I have is that I can detect low level grain just on the edge of visibility throughout the film, which the MPEG encoding and decoding process is on the verge of resolving. Also, there are minor levels of edge enhancement but fortunately not to the extent of causing annoyance.

    I was also disappointed by the fact that the transfer is not accompanied by any subtitle tracks.

    Finally, I was surprised that this fairly short film is presented on a single sided dual layered disc. The layer change occurs at 33:17 and is mildly annoying due to the slight pause when it happens.

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

Audio

    There is only one audio track on this disc: English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384 Kb/s).

    The audio track is reasonably decent. It is mastered at a fairly low level but sounded okay when I turned up the volume.

    Dialogue is reasonably clear and well-presented, which is important for such a dialogue focused film. I did not detect any issues with audio synchronisation.

    Because this is such a dialogue focused film, rear surround and subwoofer activity is pretty minimal. The rear channels in particular are mainly used for music ambience apart from one instance around 35:20-35:23 where you can hear traffic noise in the rear.

    The absolute highlight for me as far as the audio track was concerned is the superb original music score by Burt Bacharach. There has been a bit of a revival of interest in the music of Burt Bacharach in recent years, and his music has cropped up in all sorts of films including the Austin Powers films and romantic comedies such as My Best Friend's Wedding. However, these films tend to rehash his more well known songs rather than new material. In my mind, I haven't listened to a good Burt Bacharach original musical score in a film since Arthur and Night Shift. Therefore, no one was more delighted than I when I discovered that this film features a fresh, vibrant, sassy and "New York sophisticated" music score, including two great songs featured in the opening and closing titles. The opening titles song is sung by Dionne Warwick (unfortunately she doesn't sound like she's in top form and I'm not convinced that she was totally in key the whole time) and the closing titles song is sung by Vanessa Williams.

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

Extras

    Given that the disc has been released by a local independent distributor (Magna Pacific) I am somewhat surprised by the inclusion of extras, particularly cast & crew interviews and a very short featurette.

Menu

    The menus are 16x9 enhanced but appear somewhat "fuzzy", almost as if they have been upconverted from NTSC to PAL. The main menu is static but features background audio (one of the Burt Bacharach instrumentals featured in the original music score).

Production Notes

    This is a set of 13 stills that provide some notes and anecdotes about the film and the real life characters on which it is based.

Biographies and Interviews - Cast & Crew

    This is a set of sub-menus, biographical stills, mug shots and brief video interviews of the following:

    There a short interview segment for most of the above names - these videos are presented in full frame (1.33:1) and appear to be edited excerpts from longer interview sessions. The audio transfer is in Dolby Digital Surround.

Theatrical Trailer (1:48)

    The trailer appears to be presented at 1.66:1 with no 16x9 enhancement, and is accompanied by an audio track in Dolby Digital Surround.

Featurette - B-Roll (12:37)

    This appears to mostly consist of excerpts from behind the scenes footage, probably intended to be edited into a promotional featurette. It concentrates on four major scenes:

    The featurette is presented in 1.33:1 with Dolby Digital Surround audio. There is an audio dropout in the right channel at around 1:14-1:20 (not that we're missing anything though because the audio track seems to be mainly background ambience).

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;

    Looks like Region 4 is the winner here due to the additional extras.

Summary

    Isn't She Great is trashy and over-the-top, but fun. It is presented on a DVD with acceptable audio and video transfers, plus a reasonable collection of extras (especially given that the DVD comes from an independent distributor).

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Christine Tham (read my biography)
Sunday, September 23, 2001
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-626D, using Component output
DisplaySony VPL-VW10HT LCD Projector, ScreenTechnics 16x9 matte white screen (254cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVR-3300
SpeakersFront and rears: B&W CDM7NT; centre: B&W CDMCNT; subwoofer: B&W ASW2500

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