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Trimark Pictures presents
Seven Girlfriends (1999)

Marie: What are you going to do, ask every girlfriend you've ever had why things didn't work out?
Jesse: ...Uh-huh.

- Mimi Rogers, Tim Daly

Review By: Joel Cunningham   
Published: March 25, 2001

Stars: Tim Daly, Laura Leighton
Other Stars: Olivia d'Abo, Jami Gertz, Melora Hardin, Elizabeth Pena, Mimi Rogers, Katy Selverstone, Arye Gross
Director: Paul Lazarus

Manufacturer: Complete Post DVD
MPAA Rating: R for language and sexuality
Run Time: 01h:40m:03s
Release Date: February 13, 2001
UPC: 031398757320
Genre: romantic comedy

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

When I read the description on the back of the box, I pegged Seven Girlfriends as a retread of Nick Hornby's novel (eventually a film), High Fidelity. It sounds so similar - "Jesse (Tim Daly)... can't maintain a successful relationship... desperate to fix the mistakes he's made, he goes on a journey to visit all his past major girlfriends." A bit familiar? Surprisingly, even with such a similar plot, Seven Girlfriends is markedly different from John Cusack's critical darling. For one thing, the character's trip in High Fidelity is a bitter one. He analyzes his old flames and finds each one unworthy or petty. In Seven Girlfriends, Jesse honestly wants to find out what is wrong with his relationship skills.

The impetus for Jesse's inquisition is a bit of a shock. In one of the most memorable opening scenes in a long time, Jesse's former flame Annabeth (Laura Leighton), his "the one," calls him out of the blue to announce she is getting married. Lest we think this is another My Best Friend's Wedding, quickly a bizarre accident literally yanks her from his life, just after she admits she still has feelings for him. Jesse doesn't handle Anna's death well - instead he proposes to his current gal, restaurant owner and psychic Hannah (Olivia d'Abo). In response, she dumps him, since they've not had the best relationship. And thus, his mission is clear. He takes off for Anna's funeral, in the meantime stopping off to visit (and quiz) every one of his past girlfriends (or at least, the six still alive).

Some of the faces in the cast will be familiar, but a lot of these people are unknowns. Happily, they are all worth knowing. Tim Daly, instantly recognizable from Wings, is suitably suave and shaky as Jesse, as well as genuinely funny and charming. Ayre Gross (Ellen) is ok, but he does have one particularly "explosive" scene (ha ha, I just made a dirty joke and you don't get it... unless of course, you've seen the film). Olivia d'Abo is delightfully nutty as the (usually incorrect) psychic Hannah. Other faces from Jesse's past include Mimi Rogers, Chicagoan Jami Gertz, Katy Selverstone, and, notably, Melora Hardin. Hardin, who hasn't had much breakout success, is surprisingly good here, and she and Daly share the film's best scene as the two sing an impromptu duet (and what a voice!).

This movie was the culmination of seven years effort from director Paul Lazarus (a TV veteran), writer Stephen Gregg, and the producers ("One year for each girlfriend," Lazarus jokes on the commentary). In retrospect, I can't see why the group had so much trouble getting things together - Lazarus, who honed his talent on Friends and Mad About You , shows a remarkable talent behind the camera. Seven Girlfriends is beautifully staged and shot, and the jokes and tender moments play equally well. The script skirts corny sitcom moments with its revealing, realistic dialogue. Plus, there are some damn funny scenes here! Keep an eye out for Jesse's reunion with his former girlfriend Martha, who now has a girlfriend of her own.

Seven Girlfriends didn't find a theatrical distributor, but it did win several audience awards at film festivals. It's easy to see why. Perhaps the honchos in Hollywood didn't see it appealing to the majority of moviegoers (look how well High Fidelity did), but it should certainly make both male and female fans of romantic comedy quite happy.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: A


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: I don't understand Trimark, why give Shriek if You Know What I Did Last Friday the 13th an anamorphic transfer, and then skimp out for Seven Girlfriends? I mean, neither was released to theaters, what's the disparity? At least the latter won several film festival awards.

Despite that exclusion, however, this image isn't too bad. The image is nice and clear, with good fine detail, but unfortunately, it seems to have picked up quite a bit of edge-enhancement in the transfer process. Colors generally look natural, but fleshtones in the darker scenes tend to look a bit washed out. Black level is fair throughout, with adequate depth for a film set mostly during the day. The print used for the master is in fair shape, as several times a scratch will flutter across the frame for a second.

Image Transfer Grade: B


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: I think this mix is about as front heavy as you can get and still be considered "surround sound." Dialogue is well represented in the center, and is always clear with no audible hiss. The score and songs sound good emanating from the rather narrow front soundstage, as do the (rare) sound effects. Unfortunately, the surrounds are almost completely silent. I only noticed them in one scene, as they meekly offer a bit of background noise at a party. Still, the mix is more than adequate for the movie. I mean, it is nice to have a center channel for the dialogue.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 24 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish, French with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 Other Trailer(s) featuring What's Cooking?
6 Deleted Scenes
2 Feature/Episode commentaries by director Paul Lazarus; additional commentary by actor Tim Daly, director Paul Lazarus, and producer Barry Opper
Packaging: Alpha
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL
Layers Switch: 00h:57m:00s

Extra Extras:
  1. Out-takes
  2. Photo gallery
Extras Review: Much like the film, the extras on this disc were a nice surprise. After reviewing three bare-bones Trimark discs, I wasn't expecting much in the way of bonus materials, but happily, I was mistaken. There is quite a bit to go through here, and all of it is worth a look.

Two commentary tracks are included, both of fair quality. Track one is a solo job from director Paul Lazarus. He avoids the usual first-time commentator pitfalls and speaks quite enthusiastically and consistently, but he unfortunately does lapse into silence for periods of 30 seconds to a minute. The stories he tells range from interesting anecdotes, to tedious production notes. Overall, it is worth a listen, but some may find it a bit too dry. The second track, featuring the director, the producer, and star Tim Daly, is a bit funnier, but it oddly suffers from even bigger gaps of silence. Daly gets off a few good lines about location shots and antics on the set (my favorite: "The couple that owned this house was just one automatic weapon short of being disgruntled postal workers"), and there is little overlap from Lazarus' first track, but everyone seems low energy. Still, the latter is probably the more fun of the two.

Six deleted scenes are presented in widescreen, but are grainy and unfinished. All run about a minute and were likely cut solely to keep the running time down. However, all are worth seeing, and some are very funny ("The lint under where? His a**?!"). And usually I hate deleted scenes, so you know they must've been at least decent.

A brief gag reel runs for three minutes or so and features a few mistakes, but mostly some very funny ad-libs from Daly. If you want to see someone perform a hernia exam on a flower, this is the place! A storyboard gallery reveals how detailed the planning stages were for some of the more complex scenes. One scene ("Sex Fantasy") was changed completely in the final film, and the elusive storyboards for the bungee jump sequence can be viewed here (yes, I said "sex" and "bungee jump" in the same sentence).

Finally, rounding out the disc are a small still gallery and two theatrical trailers, one for Seven Girlfriends, and another for What's Cooking?, which looks very amusing. Not too shabby, eh?

Extras Grade: B


Final Comments

Don't let the ex-TV cast and TV director scare you away from this one. Though the premise is similar to High Fidelity, I found Seven Girlfriends to be equally amusing and revelatory, if a bit less glossy. I don't know why this was never picked up for theatrical distribution, but at least Trimark has produced a fine DVD with some excellent supplements. I hope to one day replicate the journey of the main character in this film, and go back to check up on all my beautiful, movie star ex-girlfriends. Especially Laura Leighton.


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