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Sony Pictures Home Entertainment presents
"Lately, they've just been debilitating...the headaches."
DVD ReviewThe immense success of Memento inspired a string of challenging films utilizing non-linear storylines as countless other productions over the last decade seem to be a direct result of Christopher Nolan's modern classic. November is one such production that flew under the radar when it reached only a handful of theaters in late summer 2005. With the popular Courtney Cox headlining the picture, it's hard to believe it didn't receive a wider release, but its bizarre, experimental style and timeline—even stranger than that of Memento—are more likely what kept it on the indie circuit.
Sophie Jacobs (Cox) is a photography professor haunted by the events of one November 7. While Sophie is waiting in her car, her boyfriend Hugh (James LeGros) goes into a convenience store where a robber comes in and shoots Hugh, seemingly killing him. In the month since the incident, Sophie is struggling to cope; she's seeing a psychiatrist (Nora Dunn), and frequently lunches with her mother (Anne Archer), who wants her to move on. As she continues to relive November 7, the details of the robbery become clearer, and Sophie's descent into madness speeds up.
While not nearly as effective and interesting as other films in this subgenre, November is still terrifically engrossing, and has a very Machinist feel to it. The entire movie is a multi-layered mystery that unravels at a brilliant pace. Things do become confusing at times, but the competent editing keeps the viewer able to store what's been seen in their memory and simply sit back and see how things unfold. I was worried the ending would wind up an ambiguous mess, but the final scenes are nearly perfect, and will make you want to go back instantly and piece everything together.
The film's running time is a meager 78 minutes (10 minutes of which are the slowest end credits in history), but this seems to be the perfect length. The audience isn't always sure where the line between reality and perception is drawn, so keeping the numerous surreal images and dialogue-filled scenes moving quickly is a smart move. Director Greg Harrison shows a great deal of poise and has the potential to join the ranks of Christopher Nolan and David Lynch, albeit in the distant future.
The cast is relatively small, but the supporting work is very strong. Archer as Sophie's mother reminds us just how much we miss this once prolific actress. Dunn is also effective as Sophie's psychologist, a by-the-numbers role in most films, making the transition from Saturday Night Live to dramatic player nicely. The big surprise is just how good Courteney Cox is here. She takes an extremely tough part and embodies it effortlessly. LeGros is also fine as her boyfriend, but Cox is on screen the entire time, and carries the responsibility for the film's success as a result.
Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A
Image Transfer Review: Shot in DV, November appears in a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation. This format has been handled much better in the past, but things still look good here. Keeping grain at a minimum is always a challenge for DV, but it's not much of a nuisance here. This is a very dark film, but the contrast and shadow levels hold up well, and colors remain strong throughout. Pixelation is a problem, though, far too often, and does distort a few images.
Image Transfer Grade: C+
Audio Transfer Review: The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix plays a huge part in November's overall effectiveness. The surrounds are often called upon to broadcast some very creepy sounds that gel nicely with the surreal on-screen imagery. The subwoofer provides some very aggressive bass too, and the dialogue always works in tandem with the rest of the audio elements.
Audio Transfer Grade: A-
Disc ExtrasStatic menu with music
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French with remote access
8 Other Trailer(s) featuring Junebug, Thumbsucker, Heights, 2046, Yes, The Beautiful Country, Oliver Twist, The Gospel
1 Deleted Scenes
2 Feature/Episode commentaries by 1. Director Greg Harrison & screenwriter Benjamin Brand2. Director Greg Harrison & director of photography Nancy Schreiber
Packaging: Keep Case
There's an alternate opening sequence that seems out of place with the rest of the film, so it's no surprise it was cut. A nine-minute conversation with the project's composer and visual designer, Lew Baldwin offers some candid looks at the filming.
Rounding things out are a trio of photo galleries and previews for other Sony Pictures Home Entertainment releases.
Extras Grade: B
Final CommentsNovember is a tight, twisty, and satisfying thriller that could prove to be a nice boost to Courteney Cox's film career. It's an entertaining hour that utilizes its non-linear plot structure in fresh and unique ways. This DVD does the best it can with the digital source material, but the audio and decent extras collection are a very nice surprise.
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