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MGM Studios DVD presents
Things You Can Tell Just by Looking at Her (2000)

"Only a fool would speculate on the life of a woman."
- Carol (Cameron Diaz)

Review By: Kevin Clemons   
Published: July 24, 2001

Stars: Holly Hunter, Calista Flockhart, Cameron Diaz, Glenn Close, Amy Brenneman
Other Stars: Kathy Baker, Valeria Golino, Gregory Hines
Director: Rodrigo Garcia

Manufacturer: laser Pacific
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for mature thematic elements, sexual content and language
Run Time: 01h:49m:32s
Release Date: July 10, 2001
UPC: 027616859198
Genre: drama

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B+ A-D+B- D

DVD Review

Somewhere on the walls of everyone's local video store there are countless films that never got their shot. Most are small independent pictures made with less money than the average banker makes in a year, yet many times these are the gems that, after one viewing, you quickly tell your friends about. If there were ever a poster child for this syndrome it would have to be Rodrigo Garcia's Things You Can Tell Just By Looking At Her. With a cast that features multiple Oscar® and Emmy® nominees, Things You Can Tell.. was originally on track for a theatrical release through MGM and United Artists. Yet after a successful premiere at Cannes, where it also took the best new writer/director prize, the film surprisingly went straight to the cable channel Showtime for its premiere. For a film to be shifted direct to cable or video is nothing new; what is alarming is that Things You Can Tell.. is miles ahead of many of the big budget blockbusters littering cineplexes today.

Things You Can Tell.. shows five vignettes that gently cross with one another in the Los Angeles area in the course of a week. Dr. Elaine Keener (Close) is having a dificult time with her life. In between taking care of her dying mother, she is also struggling with feelings of loneliness. Next we meet Rebecca (Hunter), a 39-year-old bank manager who discovers that she is pregnant by her married boyfriend of three years, played by Gregory Hines. Kathy Baker is Rose, children's book author and single mother of a fifteen-year-old boy. For Rose, life seems fine until a new neighbor named Albert, who also happens to be a dwarf, moves in next door and love starts to bloom. Christine (Flockhart),a tarot card reader, struggle with the impending death of her lover, Lilly (Golino), as she looks back at their time together. Finally, Kathy (Brenneman), a police detective, seems more focused on her career and caring for her outgoing—and blind—sister Carol (Diaz), than she does her own romantic life.

What makes Things You Can Tell.. so much better than other "chick flicks," that seem to be a dime a dozen on Lifetime, is that this film has such an amazingly intimate quality. I like the way that it slowly unfolds each story until the viewer is so swept up in the lives of these women that it is impossible not to care for them. Hunter in particular showcases her talent in a scene that has a sense of raw emotion that I have not seen in a movie in quite some time.

If Garcia falters at all it is in his attempts to cleverly link the stories together. Many times it seems as though he is placing the characters together for no real reason other than to link the vignettes together in several scenes. Sometimes it works (the Close and Flockhart scenes have a nice quality to them); yet at other moments, the encounters seem too forced.

Perhaps the area where the film greatly excels is in the gifted hands of cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki (Sleepy Hollow). His camerawork is often a barometer as to the mood of the character on which the scene focuses. Many scenes are beautifully realized with a soft palette, such as Baker's suburban house, while the interiors of the bank and police stations are shot with dull muted colors that enhance the scene with a sense of despair.

It should come as no surprise that the performances in Things You Can Tell.. are what make the film so special. Close, whose performances lately have bordered on way too over-the-top, has a wonderful, subtle quality here that shows her character dealing with change and searching for love. Flockhart gives a fine performance that, while not showy, does have moments of heartbreaking sadness as she grieves for her dying lover. One scene of note has Flockhart telling a story to her lover and slowly the tears come down her face until she loses control. It is a fascinating scene to watch.

Anyone who sees movies on a regular basis knows that to get one flawless performance from an actor or actress in a motion picture is difficult enough—just imagine getting four. Baker, Diaz, Brenneman, and Hunter are each equally amazing in their roles. Diaz's sense of comic timing is made all the more remarkable by her ability to play sad and confused in the very next moment. Baker, Hunter, and Brenneman each play the same role essentially: a woman dealing with love, either unwanted or wanted, who has to slowly realize that having someone doesn't make you happy, it is being in love that does.

Things You Can Tell.. is a film that belongs on the big screen among all of the blockbusters and sappy love stories this is a film that could easily make it even on the art house circuit. It is a sad state of affairs when a film so perfectly realized is not given a chance, yet countless others go on to make millions that don't deserve it.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: A-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyesno

Image Transfer Review: I was all set to praise the video transfer done by Laser Pacific for Things You Can Tell.. before I even put the disc in my player. How could this film not be wonderful to look at with the clarity and detail of DVD? When I watched the premiere on Showtime via satellite, it looked great, yet this anamorphic 1.85:1 transfer is awful. Print flaws are the biggest problem, as the first forty minutes feature dirt and scratches that blew my mind, considering the film was so new. Edge enhancement is also a constant problem in several scenes. Colors are, on the other hand, beautifully realized and vibrant, while detail and sharpness look to be fine. But the constant print flaws and scratches keep me from passing this transfer.

A full frame version of the film is available on the flip side of the disc.

Image Transfer Grade: D+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0English and Frenchyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: Presented in a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix as well as a Dolby Surround 2-channel track it is often hard to differentiate between the two. Dialogue is clear with only a few slight moments where is it hard to understand. The score comes across well in both the front and surround speakers with nice fidelity. A French 2-channel mix is also provided.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 32 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in French and Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
Packaging: Amaray
1 Disc
2-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: The theatrical trailer is presented in anamorphic 1.85:1 video and is worth a look.

Extras Grade: D


Final Comments

Things You Can Tell.. is a real find for those willing to seek it out. The video transfer is near abysmal, and the sound is fine yet unfulfilling. With only the theatrical trailer as an extra it is hard to recommend buying this disc, but renting it is a definite.


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