Beautiful Girls Blu-ray features mediocre video and decent audio in this mediocre Blu-ray release
In this post-coming-of-age comedy, a piano player at a crossroads in his life returns home to his friends and their own problems with life and love. The high school reunion in a small Massachusetts town gives the group of buddies plenty of opportunities to try and sort out their views about women. From the former stud-turned-snowplow operator to the aspiring nightclub musician who escaped to New York, these clueless cads can only hope for some female guidance.
For more about Beautiful Girls and the Beautiful Girls Blu-ray release, see Beautiful Girls Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on March 26, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 2.5 out of 5.
There are all sorts of dramatic tales and narratives and arcs out there. The beauty of the cinema medium is its ability to depict every single one of
them multiple times over, with different perspectives and unique flavors, often with varying degrees of success. Chances are, if there's a subject that
interests someone, there's been a movie made about it. The classic
"coming of age" story is one of the constant staples of the medium, a subject that's been covered in countless films and, as always, to varying degrees
of success. Director Ted Demme's Beautiful Girls is a story about a handful of young adults searching for their place in the world, living their
lives only as they know how while on the path towards something, they hope, beyond the cards they've been dealt. The story as presented herein is
smoothly and cleanly, but there's not much of an original spark to it with precious few reasons -- mostly centered on the cast -- to choose it over all
the other, similar films. It's
fine at what it does, not too structurally complex or dramatically dull, but there's just not much in Beautiful Girls to set it apart from the pack.
Willie Conway (Timothy Hutton) is returning home to small-town Massachusetts for a ten-year high school reunion. Of his group of friends, he's the
only one to escape the snowy little town and do something more than plow snow with his life. He's now a big-city lounge piano player and is
contemplating taking more steady work as a salesman. He's
greeted warmly upon his arrival and soon strikes up a friendship with young Marty (Natalie Portman), a new-to-him next-door-neighbor who, at only
thirteen, has the presence of an adult and treats him as such, in more ways than one. Meanwhile, Willie reconnects with his old friends. Tommy
Rowland (Matt Dillon) operates the town's snow plow and finds himself caught between two women, his girlfriend Sharon (Mira Sorvino) and the
married Darian (Lauren Holly) who dated Tommy years ago and desperately wants him back. Paul (Michael Rapaport) is another plow man who
hasn't quite matured beyond puberty. He lives surrounded by posters of pin-up girls and dreams of dating one. The friends often meet at a tavern
"Stinky" (Pruitt Taylor Vince). He has a sexy cousin (Uma Thurman) who arrives in town and complicates matters for several of the locals. As the
friends reunite and deal with
life and love, they must make the choices that will guide their respective courses for the rest of their lives.
It's hard to dislike a movie like Beautiful Girls -- it's tender and thoughtful beneath the mountain of genre cliché -- but then again
it's easy to brush it off considering the broad unoriginality that runs
through it. It lacks the creativity and novelty to be
a "classic" or anything close to that, but it's nevertheless highly proficient at what it does. It's a true, honest "life progression" movie, and if the film
does anything spectacularly, it's the authenticity with which it paints its characters, even if they develop rather predictably as the film moves along.
The characters are everyday folks with everyday problems, struggles, wants, desires, dreams, and needs. They're largely imperfect, but it's that
imperfection that shapes them into better people by the end. The movie is largely about a search for self, a want for something more, a need to
choose a path. Sometimes, the movie rightly states, it takes a little bit of time back with the past to forge a trail towards the proper future. It's a
about how the search and the journey never really end, about how things change and stay the same, both inside and out. Beautiful Girls
all of this formula down very well, but it never really does wonders with the material.
The generally recycled, predicable, and clichéd material is helped along by what is mostly a brilliant cast. Even when an actor, or a group, isn't firing
all cylinders in the movie, the sheer star power and surrounding top performances really balance the film and, for the most part, the performances
are quite good. The film is at its best in its scenes
featuring both Timothy Hutton and Natalie Portman. Their chemistry is eerily natural, and Portman's performance is exceptional. She handles the
character with a confidence and natural ability that she really hasn't found in her later years, capturing the same sort of effortless screen magic she
displayed in The Professional, a film in which she works with a superior script but
finds a depth and meaning to her character that's not quite so readily evident in the scripted dialogue alone. Nearly every other face in the film is
familiar, and most every player falls right into the place and time of the movie's wintry Northeastern setting. It's a cast that provides the movie a
needed and welcome authenticity. The film benefits greatly from the pure sense of realism that's a product of the believable longtime camaraderie
between all of the
primaries. It helps
better shape the plot arc and the dramatic specifics both, yet that cloud of unoriginality still hinders, but thankfully doesn't destroy, the film.
Beautiful Girls features a dull, uninspired transfer. The image is stable enough and offers adequate details and colors, but at its best it's not a
significant improvement over standard definition. Details are flat, generally, with no life or heavy textures. Faces often appear particularly pasty, while
clothes lack that tactile detailing often found on the best Blu-rays. Exteriors both night and day fare nicely enough, however. Colors are quite dreary,
for the most part, even against blinding white snowy backdrops. The image is sometimes severely dull, never finding any vibrance even in the most
diverse hues. Black levels and flesh tone are neither great nor disappointing. There's very little in the way of grain, but there is some heavy
wear-and-tear over the opening titles. Some edge enhancement is visible in spots, but blocky backgrounds and banding are largely absent. This is a
serviceable transfer but fans expecting more will be disappointed.
Beautiful Girls features an uninspired but adequate DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 lossless soundtrack. There's decent presence to the opening music
and, indeed, all subsequent songs. Generally, there's a fair front end spacing, clear instrumental playback, and quality vocals that hover in the middle.
The track delivers some small but mood- and environment-critical elements well enough. A plow crunching over snowy streets, for instance, comes
across well enough that the effect isn't mistaken for something else. There are a few good moments of true, precise ambient effects, such as in Stinky's
bar or out on a skating pond. Otherwise, this one is largely all about dialogue. The spoken word is delivered clearly and intelligibly from movie start to
finish. This is by no means reference material, but it gets viewers through the movie with no major issues.
Behind the Curtain (SD, 27:00): A mix-and-match piece that offers a somewhat detailed cast and crew dissection of the film, a music
video, a Jon Stewart interview with cast and crew, clips from the movie Flirting with Disaster, and more.
What is True Beauty? (SD, 3:24): The cast shares its thoughts on "true beauty."
Beautiful Girls isn't much of a cinema novelty -- these sorts of "finding one's place in the world in the company of old friends and in the comfort
of the old stomping grounds" films are fairly commonplace -- but the picture pieces together a wonderful cast and strong performances that bring more
to the film than it could ever find in the unimaginative script alone. There's not much of a reason to watch beyond the cast, and this is one of the better
ensembles of the 1990s. Echo Bridge' Blu-ray release of Beautiful Girls delivers passably drab video and audio. Two extras are included. Rent it.
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