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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
I Love You to Death (1990)

"Don't think of them as drug addicts, think of them as killers."
- Nadja (Joan Plowright)

Review By: Kevin Clemons  
Published: August 27, 2003

Stars: Kevin Kline, Tracy Ullman
Other Stars: William Hurt, Keanu Reeves, Joan Plowright, River Phoenix
Director: Lawrence Kasdan

Manufacturer: DVDL
MPAA Rating: R for violence, language, sexual content
Run Time: 01h:31m:41s
Release Date: July 29, 2003
UPC: 043396103399
Genre: black comedy

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
C+ B+B-B D+

DVD Review

There are, I suppose, varying levels of love and devotion. Some couples are made for each other and are meant to live happily ever after, and then there are those like Joey (Kline) and Rosalie Boca (Ullman) that may not last through dinner. In the film I Love You to Death, Rosalie and Joey are a couple at odds over Joey's extramarital affairs, and while Joey may think of it as a rite of manhood, Rosalie sees the only reasonable solution is to place Joey in a shallow grave.

Based on the true story of a couple from Allentown, PA, the film focuses largely on Joey and Rosalie as well her crazy mother (Plowright), a new age employee (Phoenix), and two drug-addled hit men (Reeves and Hurt). When Rosalie wakes up to the fact that Joey has been cheating on her, she rationalizes that, as a Catholic, divorce for her is out of the question, so the only way to end the marriage is by Joey's death. Her first attempt involves a batch of spaghetti and a bottle of sleeping pills; from there she resorts to cutting brake lines, baseball bats, and two clueless hitmen.

There is a fine balance struck in I Love You to Death between satire and morbidity that director Lawrence Kasdan and his screenwriters balance almost perfectly. The basic idea of a woman attempting to dispose of her cheating husband may be seen as off-putting to most, but the script makes the subject matter heartfelt in a very odd sort of way. This is largely thanks to a nearly pitch perfect performance by Ullman, who plays the role of Rosalie low key, which eschews the obvious angle of her being a doormat for Joey. Her scenes imbue the movie warmth and heart—well, except for the moments when she is trying to kill her husband, but you get the idea.

At first glance, Kasdan may seem an unlikely choice for a film with such dark comedic tones, given his past films, but here his direction is more relaxed, which gives the comedy a very dry feel and blends with the material nicely. There are moments where it becomes evident that Kasdan is allowing his actors to roam free and explore their characters, but for the most part, he never overplays the subject matter. Had he resorted to cheap laughs, it is likely that the effect would have been lessened; instead the tone is just somber enough that the macabre moments offer some very large laughs.

Kasden also pulls fine work out of Kline, who appears to be the only actor overplaying his role; at times, his performance feels more like a caricature. Hurt, Reeves, and Plowright all offer especially terrific performances in which each seems to be going against type with their roles.

Rating for Style: C+
Rating for Substance: B+


Image Transfer

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

Image Transfer Review: Presented in both 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen and full-frame transfers, I Love You to Death looks worse than it should, given other Columbia Tri Star catalog releases, although overall the results are watchable. Colors are very drab and fail to offer the vibrancy needed to make the image stand out; black levels show some slight grain. The print used shows some overall grain that becomes distracting due to the numerous instances of dirt and slight scratches.

Image Transfer Grade: B-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes

Audio Transfer Review: The Dolby Surround track is based almost entirely in the center channel. The remaining speakers never come alive except for a few slight instances where the score comes through in the front. The surround speakers are largely dormant for the entire running length.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 24 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, and Thai with remote access
3 Other Trailer(s) featuring So I Married An Axe Murderer, Manhattan Murder Mystery, Murder By Death
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL

Extras Review: Trailers for So I Married an Axe Murderer, Manhattan Murder Mystery, and Murder By Death are available for viewing, though no other extra features have been included.

Extras Grade: D+


Final Comments

Your appreciation of I Love You to Death may well depend on your ability to accept dark humor and a very strange script. The film ranks as one of the better in Kasdan's career, and I am happy to have it finally available on DVD.


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