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Artisan Home Entertainment presents
Plenty (1985)

"...there is plenty. Shall we eat again?"
- Susan Brock (Meryl Streep)

Review By: Robert Mandel   
Published: May 01, 2000

Stars: Meryl Streep, Charles Dance
Other Stars: Ian McKellen, Sam Neil, Sir John Gielgud
Director: Fred Schepisi

MPAA Rating: R
Run Time: 02h:03m:00s
Release Date: June 22, 1999
UPC: 017153111903
Genre: drama

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

It is only at the 120-minute mark that the true irony in this portrait of a contemptible, rude, self-centered woman becomes fully realized. It was only then that I began to rewind through the movie in my head to determine what it was I had actually watched. I like this in a movie. Just when you feel safe in your opinion, you are suddenly shifted to a place of discomfort and self-doubt. Besides the cookie-cutter, assembly line Hollywood approach, the single biggest problem with American movies is the need to write to the lowest common denominator. This is a film in the British style, that of subtlety and ambiguity; a slice of life where the viewer is respected enough not to have everything handed to them on a stupid platter. Plenty is what may be referred to as a character film; one that imparts as much information from what is not said as what is.

Perhaps I was tired from a week of rebuilding my half bathroom, or maybe I simply wasn't in the mood for a slow moving tale, but I was bored and restless through much of my entire first viewing—until that abrupt awakening in the final moments before the screen fades to black. There are so many reasons why we may like or dislike a film the first go around (climate, mood, company, seating, hunger, theater crowd, etc.) that I find nearly all films worthy of repeat viewing. So I ventured into Plenty again.

Why should we care about this female, hubris-riddled, modern-day mental-Robinson Crusoe, who after spending her youth as a British freedom fighter in France during World War II, spends nearly her entire figuratively-shipwrecked life after as a brooding, sulking, criticizing, ever-reminiscing whiner? We shouldn't. It is her own self-absorption that leads to her mental deterioration, and inability to truly grow as a person.

Despite the fact that one wastes much time trying to find flaw with her English accent, which turns out to be very good, Meryl Streep gives a most masterful performance as the woman who is ironically more tedious and boring than the post-war British middle class she loathes. "I must be moving on," she always says, and though the place, or job, or lover changes, she never quite does. Susan is as incapable of change as she is at accepting blame. After ruining her husband's career, as she begins unraveling in the great echoing space of the foreign ministry building, she turns to his employer, Sir Andrew, and says: "I think you have destroyed my husband. You see."

Streep is surrounded by a first rate cast of players, including Charles Dance (For Your Eyes Only, Alien 3) as the husband she loves to torture by public humiliation; Sam Neil as her wartime lover; Sir John Gielgud as the Graham Greene-like civil serviceman, who turns out to be more substance than blunder; Ian McKellen (<b>Gods and Monsters) in a short, wonderful performance as Sir Andrew, Susan's husband's boss who, unlike most, puts her in her place; as well as a young Sting as her unsuccessful stud, and Tracy Ullman as her roommate and friend.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: This single-sided picture disc has an anamorphically (16:9) enhanced transfer at its original 2.35:1 theatrical aspect ratio. Despite some scenes when the Brocks move to Jordan that appear washed out, this is a very nice transfer that is sharp and true, with only small amounts of pixelation, nicks, and scars. Much like Frances, Artisan seems to have found a generally clean print.

Image Transfer Grade: A


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno

Audio Transfer Review: This is a fairly pragmatic Dolby Surround 2.0 mix, although the majority of the movie rests at the center channel. The dialogue is well rendered, and there are occasional sweeping effects across the front stage. The rear surrounds are infrequently but nicely deployed to the fill the room during musical transitions.

Audio Transfer Grade: C+


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 15 cues and remote access
Packaging: Alpha
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: Like the other Republic catalogue titles Artisan has just streeted (Frances, Tender Mercies), this is a bare bones disc that lacks any actual extras outside of scene selection. I am of the opinion that the price should reflect the content of the disc (including film, and transfer quality, which here are quite good). That said, Artisan should either lower their retail price to be worthy of this disc, or add extras to it to make it worthy of the price.

Extras Grade: D-


Final Comments

Plenty is a study of British artistry that can only get better upon further viewing (the dinner and ministry scenes alone make this movie worth watching). With that and the wonderful cast to boot, it makes it hard for me to give this disc a renter status; but I must. Of course, the lack of extras set aside, the movie and transfer alone would make this a nice addition to any collection.


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