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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
Nina Takes a Lover (1993)

Photographer: I was Nina's lover. It's a funny word, don't you think? Lover. 'Cause most people who have a lover don't really love them. It isn't love they're looking for. At least I don't think so.
Journalist: You don't think Nina was looking for love?
Photographer: I think Nina was looking for an experience.

- Paul Rhys, Michael O'Keefe

Review By: David Krauss   
Published: February 17, 2004

Stars: Laura San Giacomo, Paul Rhys, Michael O'Keefe, Cristi Conaway, Fisher Stevens
Director: Alan Jacobs

Manufacturer: DVSS
MPAA Rating: R for some strong sexuality and language
Run Time: 01h:38m:51s
Release Date: February 17, 2004
UPC: 043396077812
Genre: romance


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
C+ C+B+C+ D

DVD Review

Laura San Giacomo has enjoyed a successful, if undistinguished, acting career, never quite achieving the big-screen stardom her considerable talent seemed destined to spawn. After a couple of dazzling early performances in sex, lies and videotape and Pretty Woman, she appeared in a string of largely forgettable movies before selling out to TV, where she languished for six years on the hit sitcom Just Shoot Me. Just why San Giacomo's fresh, sassy, Jersey girl personality never really blossomed on film remains strangely baffling, as the actress noticeably brightens any project in which she appears.

Nina Takes A Lover is no exception, although the quirky, often morose romantic "comedy" might be partially responsible for derailing San Giacomo's rise. The story of an insecure wife who pursues a liaison with a married photographer should be a light, edgy, urban cinematic affair, but writer-director Alan Jacobs mercilessly drags the film down by saddling it with groan-inducing platitudes and a pretentious self-importance that quickly alienates the audience.

Right out of the gate, the film stumbles, thanks to its trite, annoying storytelling technique. Jacobs employs the overdone interview format as the main narrative engine, and casts Michael O'Keefe as the journalist-cum-psychoanalyst who's hard at work on a magazine feature discussing marriage and fidelity in the liberated 1990s. An intimate table at a neighborhood café doubles as his confessional, and Nina (San Giacomo) requires little prodding before she spills the details of her extramarital dalliance with a British photographer (Paul Rhys). The film unfolds as a series of flashbacks (not always in chronological order), and we witness the relationship's various stages, from the initial rush of burning passion (featuring a memorable, yet precarious tryst on a stockroom ladder) to the uncertain pangs of commitment and the agony of deception. Revealing any more would spoil the climactic twist, which unfortunately prompts jaded eye rolling instead of the intended revelatory gasp.

Nina Takes A Lover slips again by divorcing itself from traditional romantic comedies. The film strives to be deep, probing, and profound, but in so doing adopts a distasteful amateurish quality. And by shunning the genre instead of embracing it, the movie sacrifices its sense of fun. Nina Takes A Lover should be a hot, sexy lark—with the all-important substance seamlessly woven into the dialogue and situations—but it winds up a self-indulgent bore. Lines are delivered with a sober seriousness, and accented by pregnant pauses, meaningful sighs, and significant glances more akin to Harold Pinter than a snuggly date flick. Exacerbating the artificial mood are white-on-black title cards that introduce various segments, adding a Woody Allen-like formality to the proceedings.

Still, San Giacomo manages to exhibit many of the endearing qualities that initially attracted our attention. Her natural performance and steamy chemistry with Rhys almost salvage the film, but the material betrays her. Instead of analyzing an illicit relationship and lampooning infidelity, Jacobs' entire script is a build-up to the misguided twist, a shameless gimmick that alters the film's entire complexion, and spoils and nullifies the honest moments that precede it. As a result, the audience must rethink the plot and reevaluate the characters—a tall order for such a trivial movie. Nina Takes A Lover would certainly benefit from the scrutiny of a second viewing, but, frankly, it's just not worth the trouble.

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

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: Although surface debris disrupts the film's opening minutes, Columbia's widescreen anamorphic transfer is, for the most part, clean and clear. High definition remastering helps, and the increased detail level is definitely noticeable. A slight bit of grain remains, which lends the visuals a film-like feel that nicely compliments the romantic subject matter and the movie's independent heritage. Accurate fleshtones, good contrast, and the absence of any digital artifacts further enhance this pleasing video effort.

Image Transfer Grade: B+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno


Audio Transfer Review: The Dolby Surround track is far from spectacular, but gets the job done, keeping dialogue comprehendible at all times. Directionality is barely noticeable and Todd Boekelheide's music score craves more depth and presence.

Audio Transfer Grade: C+

 

Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French with remote access
3 Other Trailer(s) featuring Henry Fool, Husbands and Wives, Manhattan Murder Mystery
Packaging: generic plastic keepcase
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: A few trailers are the only extras included.

Extras Grade: D

 

Final Comments

Nina Takes A Lover is far from what it appears to be—and that's not a good thing. Only mildly comedic, this romantic trifle takes itself way too seriously and blindsides its audience with a contrived and ultimately suicidal twist. Although it's refreshing to see Laura San Giacomo tackle a leading role, even the actress' fans should steer clear of this bland, unsatisfying film.

 


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