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Lions Gate presents
Ten Tiny Love Stories (2001)

"Time is ruthless, isn't it?"
- Radha Mitchell

Review By: Jon Danziger   
Published: October 15, 2002

Stars: Kathy Baker, Lisa Gay Hamilton, Debi Mazar, Radha Mitchell, Elizabeth Peña, Rebecca Tilney, Susan Traylor, Deborah Unger, Kimberly Williams, Alicia Witt
Director: Rodrigo Garcia

Manufacturer: Advanced Media Post
MPAA Rating: R for language and sexual dialogue
Run Time: 01h:37m:06s
Release Date: July 16, 2002
UPC: 658149801226
Genre: drama

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

When you first pop this disc into your player, you may think you've stumbled into an acting class gone terribly wrong. Ten actresses deliver ten successive monologues, each one about a man—they're each shot in one long take, and speak directly to the camera, about running into an old boyfriend, say, or the guy next to them on an airplane flight who related his life story, or about a bad first marriage to an older man. So while they may be tiny, they're not necessarily love stories; they vary in quality of writing and acting skill, and in length, and it's the sort of movie you can dip into at any point and not worry about having to get caught up on the plot.

One of the questions you may ask yourself as you watch this is: How is this not radio? Well, it sort of is, but some good work from the actors provides a certain amount of visual interest—Elizabeth Peña is especially good—and there are some small, delicate touches in the production design that make things visually pleasing. (The homes in which these women are photographed seem comfortable, almost generic—it's like a Pottery Barn catalog shot with tremendous depth of field.) But given that there's deliberately no connection between these women and their stories, there's not much cumulative power, and with its highs and lows and meanderings, it's sort of like tuning into a Selected Shorts reading on NPR.

Some of the tales are moving, but they're all moving in rather the same way, and given the relative lack of things to look at, you'll start attending to the fact that lots of this is seriously overwritten. The cast does their best, but it's hard to humanize such Hallmark card sentiments as "It's not the words, it's who you are," or "It's not the little things that matter to me, but what's coming up next," or "He's polite in a way that makes you feel cheap." Do you know people who talk like this? I don't. There are many great short story writers whose dialogue on the page seems truthful, but when read aloud can be precious and mannered—they range from Ernest Hemingway to Mona Simpson—and it feels like, in the writing, director Rodrigo Garcia forgot that his words would be heard and not read.

There are some truths here, but given that there's absolutely no human interaction, it's not a gripping bit of cinema. There's a certain braveness to these ten women going in front of the camera and delivering these words in extreme close-ups with nothing or no one to cut away to, but after a couple of them it feels more like a stunt and an indulgence than a movie.

Rating for Style: C
Rating for Substance: C+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: A subtle palette, locked-down camera and handsome production design make for a nice-looking movie, despite having been shot on a limited budget. Black levels are reasonably solid, though now and again it seems a little lackluster, and there's the occasional bit of debris interfering with the image quality.

Image Transfer Grade: B-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno

Audio Transfer Review: Soundtrack is generally pretty clean, with the exception of Deborah Unger's monologue—she sounds as if she's poorly miked, or that the boom microphone is bobbing up and down as she speaks, wreaking havoc with the audio dynamics. Elsewhere, ambient noise and room tone is uneven, though the dialogue is usually clear enough.

Audio Transfer Grade: C


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 24 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
2 Other Trailer(s) featuring The Cat's Meow, Lovely & Amazing
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Rodrigo Garcia and Dan Hassid
Packaging: generic plastic keepcase
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: The writer/director and producer provide a commentary track, and it's a lot of nuts and bolts stuff—Garcia decided not to rehearse with the actors, and the whole thing was shot in five days. It's their work, and of course they've got an affection for it, as they should, but even hearing them talk about it for an hour and a half makes it sound more like an interesting filmmaking exercise than a well-made movie. Hassid alternates between playing cheerleader and interviewer, and Garcia has obviously heard the criticism before, as he understates the case: "I have a weakness and an ear for what some people call flowery turns of phrase." (I'll say.)

The original, full-frame trailer and the other two can be found by clicking on the Lion's Gate logo on the main menu. Chapter stops are generous, but if ever a DVD cried out for exactly ten chapters, it's this one.

Extras Grade: C


Final Comments

One person's profundity is another's cliché, and you may be moved by these women and their tales, but I wasn't. Next time out you can only hope that the filmmakers will get them out of the house and show us things, not merely tell us things.


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