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20th Century Fox presents
"Some days you just need a hug"
DVD ReviewI have to say that I enjoyed this film a good deal more than I expected to. Hope Floats (a title I nonetheless despise) tells the story of Birdee Pruitt (Bullock) and her young daughter as they attempt to adapt to and deal with the consequences of Birdee's husband's infidelity (revealed on national TV) and moving back in with Birdee's mother (Rowlands) in Smithville, Texas. Added to the mix is handyman Justin (Connick), who has had a thing for Birdee since they went to school together.
While I had been expecting the equivalent of a Harlequin romance on film, the picture actually takes on divorce in a serious way, as well as the tangential issues related to returning from Chicago to small town life. I was pleasantly surprised to find that all does not necessarily get patched up in this film in typical Hollywood fashion. Particularly pleasing, knowing how life in a small town can be, was the attention given to the glee which the townspeople take in seeing Birdee (the three-time "Queen of Corn" years ago) get her comeuppance. Bullock is quite effective in portraying this vacuous perfect girl who slowly realizes what a complete jerk she has been to people around her. In particular, there is a great scene with the woman at the employment office who upon hearing Birdee's zero qualifications, looks around her desk and says, "Well, I'm not likely to find many openings for Prom Queen."
There are a few oddities, such as how people keep commenting on how awful Bullock looks; she almost always looks like a movie star to me. Bullock does get a few scenes where she is in fact a mess, including one where she is hugging the toilet, but oddly enough these aren't the ones where people are commenting. I would have taken this as irony were it just from the townspeople, but Rowlands as Bullock's mother says it as well.
The ending is a bit unfortunate and predictable, but by and large the movie was quite enjoyable and interesting. I could have done without the now-seemingly-obligatory scene with women singing an old R&B tune and dancing around. It didn't work in Practical Magic, and is even less effective here. It feels like something that is cynically added because it's part of the formula.
Generally the performances are believable. Gena Rowlands initially comes off as a little too eccentric but she makes a well-rounded characterization by the end of the film. Bullock is charming as always, but also gives us an effective emotional breakdown. Connick doesn't have much to do and comes off as rather wooden; this is mainly the fault of the script which makes him a cipher. Particularly noteworthy is Mae Whitman as Birdee's daughter, Bernice; she is effective and believable throughout the film, running the gamut from having to deal with bullies at school to her slow realization that her father does not in fact love her. A semi-regular on Chicago Hope and J.A.G., she is one of the better child actors I've seen on film in recent years.
Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B
Image Transfer Review: The picture is rather soft and given to being slightly washed out and pastel. Given the subject matter, I expect that these effects are intentional. However, the picture is hazier than I would have liked. There is little in the way of saturated color to be seen anywhere in the film. Bit rates are low, hovering around 3 Mbps, which is probably part of the problem. Overall, an acceptable but lackluster image.
Image Transfer Grade: C-
Audio Transfer Review: The sound is undistinguished in general. The 5.1 mix has very little directionality to it and the surrounds have very little to do. The occasional highly directional moment will creep in and is rather startling against the backdrop of most everything coming from the center speaker. That is probably not the effect that was being sought by the director and the sound crew, and should have been toned down somewhat on this video release. There are no LFE effects to speak of. The sound is clean and noise-free throughout. The 2.0 track (which the DVD defaults to) is adequate but not as full as the 5.1 track. Unfortunately, you cannot change audio on the fly via remote, but must go to the main menu and select a language track, then return to the movie. This is extremely poor menu design.
Audio Transfer Grade: C-
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 21 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
Extras Review: Extras are quite thin. There is a theatrical trailer, which is a good deal darker and grainier than the film itself, and brief (two- or three-screen) bios of Bullock, Connick, Rowland and Whitaker.
Extras Grade: D
Final CommentsIn whole, a surprisingly pleasant viewing experience. The film is better than the treatment given to it by Fox on the DVD, although the high list price ($34.95) suggests that it may be better to rent than to own, especially in light of the few extras provided.
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