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|Running Time||115:04 Minutes|
Fox Home Video
|RPI||Rental Only||Music||Mason Daring|
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||Pan & Scan||English (Dolby Digital 5.1, 384 Kb/s)|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||None|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.85:1||
|Subtitles||English for the Hearing Impaired||Annoying Product Placement||Yes, vaguely|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
The film begins with Novalee Nation (Natalie Portman), seventeen years old and pregnant with her first child, leaving a trailer park with her boyfriend, Willy Jack Pickens (Dylan Bruno). Among other strange quirks, Novalee has a major fear of the number five because bad things always happen to her when this number occurs in her life. When she stops at a Wal-Mart to use the ladies' room and buy a pair of shoes, she manages to wind up with exactly five dollars and fifty-five cents in change, which sends her into a sort of knowing panic. Sure enough, when she runs out into the parking lot, she discovers that Willy has disappeared, leaving her without transportation or a place to go. After camping out in the Wal-Mart for an indeterminate period of time, she finds that she is about to give birth, and things don't exactly look too good until Forney Hill (James Frain) breaks into the Wal-Mart in order to help her. We next see Novalee recovering in the local hospital, after having fame thrust upon her as the mother of the "Wal-Mart baby".
We are next introduced to Thelma "Sister" Husband (Stockard Channing), who teaches Novalee about gardening and gives her a place to stay. Finally, we meet Lexie Coop (Ashley Judd), a woman who had her first child when she was fifteen and has been progressively having more ever since. From there, we follow the lives of Novalee, Willy, and Novalee's daughter, Americus (Mackenzie Fitzgerald) through a period of what seems like about ten years. The result is a string of events that seem rather disjointed and episodic in nature, and numerous references to the passage of time are made in order to bridge the gaps. There is one satisfying moment when we see what becomes of Willy after living it up as a Country And Western star and then hitting rock bottom after arguing with his manager, Ruth Meyers (Joan Cusack), but the rest of the film just flows without any real rhyme or reason.
It is probably for the best that Where The Heart Is will be released with a six-month rental window, as I strongly recommend taking a good look at the film before committing the forty-odd dollars that the sell-through version will set you back. The transfer is impeccable, and the acting is just fine, but the screenplay really bogs this one down as far as I am concerned.
As you've probably noticed in the technical summary, Where The Heart Is has been Panned And Scanned from its original 1.85:1 ratio in order to fill up those crappy little narrow screens that are now on the technological junkpile at long last. Fox Home Video, I did not spend approximately twenty-two hundred dollars on an eighty centimetre screen with S-video inputs and a selectable 16:9 mode just so idiots who know nothing about cinematography can force me to watch only half the image, or about seventy percent of it in this case. Either give me the whole image as the director and cinematographer intended it to be seen (the opening credits just barely fit on the cropped image), or don't waste my time.
The sharpness of this transfer is excellent, with plenty of fine details on display for those of us who, like myself, cannot get enough fine details squeezed into a rectangular film frame (yes, I am being sarcastic). The shadow detail is superb, with plenty of details apparent in the night-time scenes at Wal-Mart, among other locations. There is no low-level noise in the picture.
The colour saturation of this transfer is bright, but also appears subdued due to the emphasis on red, which is in keeping with the rural American settings. Some variance is visible in the colour between different areas of Natalie Portman's skin during the first twenty-five minutes of the film, but since this is obviously an intentional effect, it's nothing to deduct points over. There are no signs of bleeding or misregistration in the picture at any time.
MPEG artefacts were not readily apparent in this transfer, although I still would have preferred a second layer to allow the highest possible bitrate, since this disc will be distributed on the rental market. Film-to-video artefacts consisted of some minor aliasing that isn't too distracting from the film, and would probably disappear altogether on a progressive display. At 7:30, there is a mild shimmer in the edge of the concrete block that Natalie Portman is seated on. At 2:05, a minor aliasing effect can be seen in a very fine line around a refinery pump, which appeared to be caused by the possible use of edge-enhancement in this area of the picture. Film artefacts consisted of the occasional white mark on the picture that wasn't too distracting, in spite of seeming out of place on such a recent film.
There is only one soundtrack on this rental DVD: the original English dialogue, encoded in Dolby Digital 5.1 with a bitrate of 384 kilobits per second. It would have been nice to have a German or Spanish dub in order to give us a break from the appalling Bible Belt accents used throughout the film, but I guess what we have here will have to do for now. The dialogue is clear and easy to understand, within the minor limitations posed by the thick accents that soon become rather irritating to listen to. There are no discernible problems with audio sync. There was one instance of distortion at 39:59, when Natalie Portman says "I'll see you soon", which I seriously doubt is inherent in the source material or the way the film was recorded.
The score music in this film is credited to Mason Daring, a name I am completely unfamiliar with in spite of the fact that this person has composed music for no less than forty-six films and television shows, including Eight Men Out and Music Of The Heart. The score music of this film is rather sporadic in nature, appearing mostly during dramatic moments in the story such as the birth of Americus, and it succeeds in lending a tense atmosphere to such moments. Overall, I enjoyed the score music in spite of its "now you hear it, now you don't" presence and the fact that it tends to telegraph the next event in the film.
Now we get into the reason why a Pro-Logic soundtrack might have suited the film just as well. The surround channels are much like the score music, in that they are used only sporadically. Numerous sequences pass by when very little can be heard from the surround channels, and other sequences use the surround channels to support the music, ambient sounds, and various other directional effects. There did not seem to be any serious use of split surround effects or any of the other nice trimmings you'd expect from a 5.1 soundtrack for a film of such recent vintage. This is as much the fault of the film's style as anything else, so it can be overlooked. The subwoofer was occasionally present to support the lower registers during musical cues, pub brawls, and tornadoes, but the lack of serious usage in other sequences made its presence somewhat conspicuous.
The video quality is reasonable, but can we please have the whole movie next time, Fox?
The audio quality is good, but a Pro-Logic mix could have done the job just as well.
There are no extras.
|DVD||Toshiba SD-2109, using S-video output|
|Display||Samsung CS-823AMF (80 cm) in 16:9 and 4:3 modes, calibrated using the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.|
|Audio Decoder||Built In (Amplifier)|
|Amplification||Sony STR-DE835, calibrated using the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.|
|Speakers||Yamaha NS-45 Front Speakers, Yamaha NS-90 Rear Speakers, Yamaha NS-C120 Centre Speaker, JBL Digital 10 Active Subwoofer|