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Years ago, the fiercely independent Lee took off for Ohio, while her older sister Bessie returned to the family's Florida home to look after their bedridden father Marvin and his lovably child-like sister Ruth. In Bessie's words, Marvin has been dying slowly for the past twenty years... just to make sure she doesn't miss anything. But after a talk with Dr. Wally, Bessie realizes that the family caregiver needs a little loving herself. Lee, on the other hand, has troubles of her own--starting with her mischievous son Hank, who has a knack for burning down the neighborhood when she's not looking. Seventeen years since her last visit, but after an unexpected call from Bessie, Lee's packs up Hank and his younger brother Charlie for the trip home.
For more about Marvin's Room and the Marvin's Room Blu-ray release, see Marvin's Room Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on February 27, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.0 out of 5.
Starring: Meryl Streep, Leonardo DiCaprio, Diane Keaton, Robert De Niro, Hume Cronyn, Hal Scardino
Director: Jerry Zaks
» See full cast & crew
Marvin's Room Blu-ray Review
A fantastic Drama debuts on Blu-ray.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, February 27, 2013
How can one sister be so good and the other so bad?
Maybe it's not so much about raw "good" and "bad" but rather courtesy, decency, and attitude, universal qualities that just need to be nudged on out, one way or another. Marvin's Room is a moving Drama about a family reunited through crisis and a look at how a little bit of kindness and understanding can go a long way to restoring bonds, mending fences, and finding an understanding about what it means to live and love even in a world of figurative darkness, a world shaped by past wrongs and bad attitudes but still malleable through the influencing power of love and hope. Longtime television Director Jerry Zaks helms the screen adaptation of the late Scott McPherson's stage production (McPherson also penned the screenplay), a story shaped by McPherson's own, similar life experiences. This is an honest, engaging, multi-faceted look at the realities of life and how the little things can overcome the bad, how a glimmer of faith can restore hope, how just a little bit of understanding can heal long-standing emotional wounds.
Bessie (Diane Keaton) cares for her bedridden father Marvin in her small Florida home. She's single, her life consumed by other things and now her work as a full-time caregiver leaves her with little time for herself, let alone love. She hasn't been feeling well of late and visits the doctor only to find her regular physician replaced with the caring but somewhat absentminded Dr. Wally (Robert De Niro) who suspects a vitamin deficiency in his patient but tests for other causes for her ailments. He returns with bad news: Bessie has become stricken by leukemia, and she'll need a bone marrow transplant to survive. Her only living relative, her sister Lee (Meryl Streep), hails from Ohio. Lee is a hairdresser with two sons, her eldest, Hank (Leonardo DiCaprio), a juvenile delinquent serving time for burning down his own home. Unfortunately, Bessie and Lee have grown apart; they haven't spoken in twenty years but must reunite in hopes of saving Bessie's life. Upon arrival, old family problems arise, but some disappear; it seems Hank has found a friend and mother figure in Bessie that he never had in Lee. Can illness bring hope, can kindness yield understanding, and can old wounds and divisions disappear with a smile?
Marvin's Room effectively blends powerful drama with simple character dynamics. The picture is one that has "tear jerker" written all over it -- the premise, the music, and the character stories all contribute -- and indeed, the film might not leave a dry eye, but not because it's necessarily sad. On the other hand, it's an uplifting tale that stirs the soul for its ability to easily craft a story of real hope and understanding, and it's the film's greater goodness and satisfying journey -- still mixed with some of the down moments necessary to the story -- that will move its audience to tears of joy. Marvin's Room proves incredibly effective in building its story by advancing its themes, intertwining the two faultlessly. Through a story of separation, sickness, and a general failure to understand others, the picture reveals the truths of life, truths that are so simple yet so difficult to find and make a part of life, truths about understanding, real love, real relationships, real compassion. It's a movie that shows its audience the way through the wilderness of life, even if sometimes the only way out is through not smoke and mirrors, but rather, here, light and mirrors. It's a movie about showing that just a little bit goes a long way, particularly the little things to earn a smile, to ease a mind, to settle a soul.
Marvin's Room is also the beneficiary of a splendid ensemble made not just of high-profile name actors but actors who deeply understand the material and fall right into character, displaying a command of the deeper, superficially impenetrable lives they have seemingly lived for decades. Streep and Keaton are fantastic from the first moment they meet following twenty years of distance. They find a real, genuine sense of awe at simply being in one another's presence, believably reunited and not simply because that's what the script demands. That's why they're two of the best; they know these characters intimately, and it's the subtle details, the telling glances and slight shifts in posture that tell the story beyond vocal delivery. The character dynamics are effortlessly captured as well; Streep is fantastic as a mother who cannot see that it's her negativity wearing on her son, and not vice versa. Even when Hank absolutely melts in his aunt's arms -- he becomes a completely different person in her presence -- Streep's Lee just cannot grasp the concept that the negative energy might flow both ways, but it's she with the on/off switch, not he. These are wonderful, fully convincing performances, the sort that can really finely shape a movie and only make better one as powerfully scripted and simply joyous as this.
Marvin's Room Blu-ray, Video Quality
Marvin's Room isn't a dazzling sort of picture, but Echo Bridge's release is fairly consistent in its mediocrity. Light grain often hovers above, spiking at times, particularly over darker surfaces. Details are never really all that sharp. The image has something of a soft edge to it, and while it never looks anything but high def, the lack of sharpness and truly fine details below the surface hurt the image. It's also a bit bright, so much so in places that edges take on the appearance of a blooming effect. Colors are nothing to marvel at -- they're quite ordinary and sometimes even bland -- but the palette is sturdy and satisfying on a basic level. Light print wear appears here and there, but never in any sort of distracting excess. A few shadowy faces struggle with even color grading. This is certainly no show stopper of a Blu-ray, but Marvin's Room at least delivers a fair HD viewing experience.
Marvin's Room Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Though it's a talk-heavy Drama with little whiz-bang sound effects of note, Marvin's Room earns a DTS-HD MA 5.1 losses soundtrack from Echo Bridge (a DTS-HD MA 2.0 track is also included). Music plays nicely enough, with an even, gentle sort of feel, good front-end spacing, and an honest surround support element. The track is such that more nuanced details in music and the film's theme song are clear enough to enjoy. Light ambiance is delivered in a few spots, for example a scene in chapter six. Otherwise, this is a front-focused dialogue film. Fortunately, the spoken word never encounters any sort of real problem. Dialogue is clear and flows effortlessly from the center. This is a basic Drama track and Echo Bridge' sound presentation satisfies across the board in that context.
Marvin's Room Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Marvin's Room contains only one supplement. The Making Of: 'Two Little Sisters' (SD, 3:29) is a short behind-the-scenes look at the making of the film's theme song.
Marvin's Room Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Marvin's Room really is almost the perfect Drama. It's superficially simple yet so inwardly complex, but it does boil down to the simple things in life, finding that harmony in family and that little touch to make things better even in the most difficult of situations. It's moving, heartfelt, and one of the most genuine movies audiences will ever see. It's also beautifully acted, populated not just with big names but actors who truly understand the very heart-and-soul essence of the picture. Echo Bridge's Blu-ray release of Marvin's Room delivers fair video and audio. One short extra is included. Recommended on the strength of the film.
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