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Down the Shore(2011)
Set on the Jersey Shore, the lives of three childhood friends begin to unravel when a deadly secret from their past is revealed.
For more about Down the Shore and the Down the Shore Blu-ray release, see Down the Shore Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on April 9, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.0 out of 5.
Starring: James Gandolfini, Famke Janssen, Edoardo Costa
» See full cast & crew
Down the Shore Blu-ray Review
Characters up a creek.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, April 9, 2013
Happiness is often hard to come by for the characters in Down the Shore, an occasionally captivating Melodrama centered on the lives of a handful of native New Jerseyans and a Johnny-come-lately Frenchman with bad news and an instant claim to all the problems, entanglements, possessions, and in some ways the very lives of the American characters. Down the Shore weaves together a tale of difficult living shaped by painful pasts headed towards uncertain futures. It's a movie in which sorting out life is life's biggest challenge, a movie in which finding meaning and a future through the happenings of the past and the challenges of the present are met with gloomy forecasts in the skies, the pocketbook, and the sum total of all of life's circumstances as they come full circle when bad news hits home and a fresh set of ears becomes involved in a long and dark history. Down the Shore proves occasionally appealing but never quite comes together in a wholly satisfying manner. It presents detailed characters and a rich, authentic atmosphere -- even through the gloom of the season -- but it never does quite find that extra purpose to truly absorb its audience beyond the immediate experience.
Bailey (James Gandolfini) is a single middle aged man who makes ends meet by operating an amusement park ride on the Jersey shore. He lives alone but is friends with his lifelong next-door neighbors, his childhood crush Mary (Famke Janssen), her husband Wiley (Joe Pope), and their mentally handicapped son Martin (John Magaro). Bailey's sister has been missing for some time, along with a stash of cash. One day, Bailey receives a visitor, a Frenchman named Jacques (Edoardo Costa). It turns out Jacques knew Bailey's sister, intimately. The two were married after a brief whirlwind Paris romance, but she died soon thereafter. She left behind a will for her husband to take one-half of everything Bailey's holds dear, including his home. With a new face in the picture, Bailey struggles to come to terms with his new reality or even believe that he's not the victim is a sick and elaborate scam. As he adjusts to life with Jacques, a dark secret past he shares with Mary and Wiley slowly comes to light.
Down the Shore begins quite strongly, with a convincing quick romance that's broken by the sudden delivery of bad news. Unfortunately, the film is largely downhill from its doubly moving opening segment, but it's not a steep decline. Rather, the story gradually devolves as the movie evolves. With the slow revelations of past and present truths comes a slow deterioration of the entire movie. Down the Shore is better when it's at its most mysterious, when the realities behind the fašades are left completely, or mostly, concealed. It's not so much that the structure is at fault, it's the reveals that prove unsatisfying. It's sort of like blindly assembling a puzzle, outwardly from an eye-catching corner only to find the rest of it not quite so alluring as that first little bit. The story is fair, to be sure, and there are some dramatically interesting and even some emotionally arresting dynamics, but not enough to satisfy the strength of the opening act or to support what is a good atmosphere and some outwardly strong characters defined by several high quality performances.
Down the Shore may struggle to bring its narrative home, to create a backstory of significance, but where it truly excels is in the authenticity of its feel, largely a result of its fantastic cast. Audiences understand the local flavors even as the action is confined, largely, to the amusement park and a three-house stretch in the neighborhood. Rookie Director Harold Guskin manages to inundate the audience with a positive sense of location, like they've been longtime neighbors and friends of the characters, understanding what it means to be part of the circle while still only gradually coming to really know them, which means the film succeeds at least in its structural pieces. The cast is uniformly fantastic. James Gandolfini effortlessly falls into character, as he always does, and he's arguably even better in these mid-to-lower class darkly complex everyman parts than he was as the more polished, wealthy, and refined mafia boss in The Sopranos. Gandolfini oozes realism in his character, the way he looks, the way carries himself, his speech, his interaction, the way he melts into his working-class background and lifestyle. Famke Janssen is quite good as well. She and Gandolfini manage to shape a rich dynamic that, in this instance, is only further solidified the further back the truthful reveals emanate. Theirs is a quiet sort of sensuality that lingers above the characters, and their ability to so subtly convey their deepest emotions proves significantly more gratifying than would be evident in a more outwardly obvious and literally connective relationship.
Down the Shore Blu-ray, Video Quality
Down the Shore delivers a stable, good-looking high definition video experience. Anchor Bay's transfer is faithfully filmic, delivering crisp, balanced details within a pure, natural 1.78:1 frame. The opening France segment is the film's best, offering a stunning amount of natural sharpness and fine detail on all surfaces. The high quality remains, but the image takes on an ever-so-slightly rougher, less polished, less vibrant, mildly softer tone in New Jersey. Still revealed are wonderful textures outside the home and on the old amusement park ride, but not quite so crisp and perfectly defined as France. Colors succumb a bit to the overreaching grayness that hangs over much of the film, but there's nevertheless a nice, accurate balance to the palette. Black levels are deep as seen in nighttime shots, and flesh tones are largely accurate. There is a very minor blocking effect across a few skies, and a hint of edge haloing shows up in one or two shots, but neither are cause for even minor alarm. All in all, this is an excellent transfer from Anchor Bay.
Down the Shore Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Down the Shore arrives on Blu-ray with a balanced, upper-end Dolby TrueHD 5.1 lossless soundtrack. There's a very nice sense of environmental accuracy in the opening Paris segments; light background ambience -- playing children, singing birds -- comes through richly and effortlessly, easily placing the listener into the environment. The same carries over when the action switches over to the Jersey shore where seagulls and rolling waves define a very rich listening atmosphere and, later, distant thunder naturally pushes through the stage. Most every piece of music in the track enjoys crisp accuracy, natural stage presence, gentle surround support, and fine definition throughout the entire range. Generally, however, this is a dialogue-intensive film. The spoken word comes through clearly and efficiently from the center and is never lost under any surrounding elements. This is an excellent Drama soundtrack from Anchor Bay.
Down the Shore Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Unfortunately, this Blu-ray release of Down the Shore contains no supplemental content.
Down the Shore Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Down the Shore is a good but ultimately imperfect film in which the dramatic arc doesn't quite satisfy in the same way that does the authenticity of the environment and the sense of real history and life that define the characters. It's a splendidly realized film on the surface, and the characters share an unmistakable air of believability in their complex relationships, but the fuller picture as revealed by the end doesn't quite live up to the excellence of the rest. Nevertheless, it's a picture well worth the investment of time if only to watch several pros fully immersed into environment and character. Anchor Bay's Blu-ray release of Down the Shore offers splendid video and audio. Unfortunately, no supplemental content is included. It's a release well worth a rental and perhaps even a purchase at a bargain price.
Down the Shore Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Down the Shore Blu-ray - January 30, 2013
Anchor Bay Films has announced the Blu-ray release of director Harold Guskin's Down the Shore, a story of tough New Jersey families and friends starring James Gandolfini, Famke Janssen, Joe Pope and Eduardo Costa. The dramatic thriller arrives on Blu-ray on April ...
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