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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
Dream with the Fishes (1997)

Nick: When we're done, if you still don't want the money, I give you option B.
Terry: What's option B?
Nick: I kill you. You don't seem to be able to do it yourself.

- Brad Hunt, David Arquette

Review By: Joel Cunningham   
Published: July 07, 2003

Stars: David Arquette, Brad Hunt
Other Stars: Kathryn Erbe, J.E. Freeman, Patrick McGaw, Cathy Moriarty
Director: Finn Taylor

Manufacturer: DVSS
MPAA Rating: R for pervasive strong language, some drug content, and sexuality
Run Time: 01h:37m:02s
Release Date: May 06, 2003
UPC: 043396004832
Genre: black comedy

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

Dream with the Fishes is a comedy about depression, suicide, terminal illness, and self-mutilation. The usual. Ok, so maybe director and co-writer Finn Taylor has, shall we say, a skewed way of looking at the world, but his peculiarities result in one of the more successful black comedies of late.

Terry (David Arquette) is a down-in-the-dumps loner, a voyeur on the brink of suicide after his wife's death in an automobile accident (although there is some question as to whether she existed at all). He's about to jump off a bridge when his neighbor Nick (Brad Hunt) talks him down, proposing a trade—Nick will give Terry some painkillers in exchange for his watch, and he can overdose peacefully and not risk living through the fall and spending the rest of his life in a wheelchair. Nick has an ulterior motive, however. He's dying of cancer, and he makes a deal with Terry—the two will spend his last weeks living out their fantasies together, and, after that, if Terry still wants to die, Nick will kill him. Thus begins a most unusual buddy film, as the two engage in a number of oddball adventures, from dropping acid at a carnival, to nude bowling (with hookers), to an attempted bank robbery.

Though the film is innovative in both tone and premise, the screenplay doesn't always successfully avoid the cliché, cramming in many of the landmark scenes from Writing 101, including a tearful goodbye in the hospital, a reconciliation between father and son, and a ham-handed central metaphor (the power of dreams to enrich a barren life). Even these familiar elements feel at least somewhat fresh, though, thanks to some sharp dialogue and Taylor's quirky visual sensibility.

According to the liner notes, Dream with the Fishes was filmed to look like a low-budget 1970s picture. Taylor and cinematographer Barry Stone employ a changing color palette to mirror shifts in tone. In the beginning, hues are oversaturated and garish, in keeping with the turbulent emotional lives of the characters as they live out their deviant fantasies. Once Nick has gone back home to deal with his past, however, colors are more natural, and the frantic cutting and breakneck, surreal pace of the first half gives way to a more realistic second. Obvious, perhaps, but effective.

The cast deserves praise as well, particularly erstwhile long distance spokesman David Arquette, who tones down his manic quirks and delivers with deadpan comic timing as the mumbling, hesitant Terry. Brad Hunt is given a bit more to do in terms of range, and he plays well whether he's acting crazy, sick, or sad. Kathryn Erbe is likewise memorable in the largely thankless role of Nick's long-suffering girlfriend.

The title refers to a prediction made by a psychic that Nick, after death, will become the guardian for all the fish in the world.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Dream with the Fishes was shot to look like a low-budget 1970s film, and that mentality shows in the DVD transfer. The first half is full of garish, oversaturated color and some intentional grain, while the later half is more naturalistic, still grainy but cleaner overall. Throughout, blacks are generally solid, though some darker scenes suffer from a lack of shadow detail. The source material shows a few flecks and scratches, and perhaps even a reel change marker. A decent presentation of difficult material.

Image Transfer Grade: B-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0English Stereono

Audio Transfer Review: Audio is offered in a very basic, but quite effective, English stereo track. The low-budget mix features clear dialogue (presented with frequent directionality), a nicely recorded score, and a full sound for the occasional pop song on the track. Sound effects are presented quite nicely, with good stereo separation.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
3 Other Trailer(s) featuring As Good As It Gets, Living in Oblivion, If Lucy Fell
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Greg Brown Music Video, Sadness
Extras Review: Extras are limited to a grainy music video for Greg Brown's Sadness, the theatrical trailer, and spots for If Lucy Fell, As Good as it Gets, and Living in Oblivion (chosen, I assume, because it also features on the cover a character with an eye patch).

Extras Grade: D


Final Comments

Dream with the Fishes is a quirky, amiable film with fine performances and sharp dialogue to overcome a somewhat trite narrative. Columbia TriStar's DVD is light on features, but the audio and video quality is generally pleasing.


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