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Paramount Studios presents
My First Mister (2001)

"Maybe you can get your eyeballs pierced."
- Randall (Albert Brooks)

Review By: Kevin Clemons   
Published: May 08, 2002

Stars: Leelee Sobieski, Albert Brooks
Other Stars: Carol Kane, Michael McKean, Desmond Harrington, John Goodman
Director: Christine Lahti

MPAA Rating: R for language
Run Time: 01h:49m:32s
Release Date: April 23, 2002
UPC: 097363389149
Genre: black comedy


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B+ BA-B- C+

DVD Review

There have been numerous movies that portray the importance of friendship and having someone to turn to in a time of need. Some drift toward overly sentimental while others eschew tears for laughter and still others present a heartwarming look at the bond that brings people together. In Christine Lahti's My First Mister, things are done a bit differently, but at the same time the plot and structure of the story seems overly familiar.

Jennifer (Sobieski) is a seventeen-year-old with an outlook on life that is not shared by many. She has multiple face piercings, a fondness for camping out in graveyards and an unhealthy relationship with her mother (Kane) and stepfather (McKean). Having been fired from her current job, Jennifer sets out to look for employment and finds it at a clothing store run by Randall (Brooks), a sarcastic, middle-aged man. The two despise each other until they learn that they have more in common than they would like to believe. As they change each other's lives, they soon discover that one of them may not be around much longer and so make as much of what time they have left.

To be honest, My First Mister plays a lot like a film with opposite ambitions in its opening and closing acts. The first hour of the film offers a sharply written screenplay and is a refreshing character study between two completely opposite personalities. The dialogue and interaction between Brooks and Sobieski is easy and confronts the immediate assumptions that the relationship between an adult and a teenager is based on sexuality. In the opening hour, we are treated to heartfelt conversations that take friendship to the brink and back again by two people who need each other. Unfortunately though, the closing moments of the film represent a downward spiral in creative character development. It feels as though screenwriter Jill Franklyn and director Christine Lahti shy away from the brutally honest questions we wonder about the friendship and instead offer too many subplots that fail to mesh cohesively with the rest of the film. Had the script avoided this sudden change, it may have been easy to hail this as a Harold and Maude for a new century; instead, its sentimental plot contrivance keeps the film from that level of brilliance.

Performances by Brooks and Sobieski do create an emotional hold on the viewer. Brooks, who seems perfect for this part, is wonderful as the social wallflower, Randall. His scenes with Sobieski spark with energy, as the two have what is possibly the best relationship I have seen recently in a film. Sobieski, who is quickly making a claim for the title of the best young actress in Hollywood, is every bit the equal of Brooks here. Her opening narration is both biting and sweet-natured in its honest portrait of a troubled adolescent. Each performance offers the sort of work that actor's dream of obtaining. In supporting roles, Carol Kane, Michael McKean, and John Goodman also do very nice work.



Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: The 2.35:1 anamorphic transfer is simply stunning. Sharpness and detail are high quality and offer the transfer a nice film-like look. The outdoor scenes, especially in chapter thirteen when Jennifer travels to New Mexico, are perfectly realized as the sunset and faded browns of the landscapes are truly spectacular. Edge enhancement is never a large problem, while black levels are nicely done with good depth, as is seen in chapter six in a darkened coffeehouse. Overall this is terrific.

Image Transfer Grade: A-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix for My First Mister is very basic in its composition, but what is here is done nicely. Dialogue is crisp and clear with no distortion, while the score by Steve Porcaro comes across nicely in the left and right speakers. Not a terribly groundbreaking track, but for the material it is above average.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-

 

Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 18 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Christine Lahti
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL

Extras Review: The lone extra feature offered on My First Mister is a commentary track by director Christine Lahti. Lahti, who made her directorial debut here, has an unabashed love for the film that is refreshing. She discusses the problems that a first time director must face while making a feature length film as well as assembling an enormously talented cast her first time out. I enjoyed the track, but there are gaps of silence that occur.

Extras Grade: C+

 

Final Comments

I really want to recommend My First Mister as a "sight unseen" purchase on the basis of the opening hour and the quality of the performances, but I just can't. The closing scenes are overly familiar and sentimental and are a sort of slap in the face of the stellar quality seen at the start of the film. Recommended as a rental only.

 


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