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No synopsis for Straight A's.
For more about Straight A's and the Straight A's Blu-ray release, see Straight A's Blu-ray Review published by Brian Orndorf on June 1, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.0 out of 5.
Starring: Ryan Phillippe, Anna Paquin, Luke Wilson, Tess Harper, Powers Boothe, Christa Campbell (I)
Director: James Cox
» See full cast & crew
Straight A's Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Brian Orndorf, June 1, 2013
"Straight A's" has elements of emotion and meaning, yet it's nearly impossible to understand exactly what screenwriter David Cole had in mind originally for this baffling tale of soulful rehabilitation. There's little here worth recommending to viewers, as director James Cox (making a return to filmmaking after 2003's similarly mangled "Wonderland") is lost in the details of craftsmanship, losing sight of the dramatic power that's supposedly meant to fuel the picture to its searing, poetic conclusion. "Straight A's" is messy and undernourished, struggling to make sense of itself while issuing sizable moments of confrontation and introspection, hanging limited actors out to dry as the production spends more time perfecting the lighting than connecting the players in this limp game of family dysfunction and temptation.
A loose cannon who's been struggling with bouts of rehab for the last decade, Scott (Ryan Phillippe) has finally returned to his Louisiana homeland riding atop a horse, eager to reunite with his sister-in-law, Katherine (Anna Paquin), a woman he once romanced before she married his brother, William (Luke Wilson). Worming his way into Katherine's palatial home with kids Charles (Riley Thomas Stewart) and Gracie (Ursula Parker), Scott remains interested in booze and drugs, yet he's on mission to reconcile with his estranged family, a change of heart brought on by visions of his deceased mother. Bonding with the children, who enjoy their uncle's spontaneous, profanity-laden ways, Scott labors to convince Katherine of his pure intentions, while interactions with his father (Powers Boothe), currently suffering with Alzheimer's, prove disastrous, making plans for a happy ending impossible. On a business trip to seal a casino land deal, William is forced to confront increasing disinterest in how own domestic life when a coworker (Christa Campbell) comes on to him, making a quick return home difficult for the absentee father and husband, frustrating Katherine.
"Straight A's" is like a flat-footed Tennessee Williams play, gathering a cast of bothered Southern characters unable to process their own misery without explicit direction from their past sins. Cole attempts to jazz up requisite scenes of disruption by making Scott something of an urban cowboy, molding a scoundrel who's arrived at William and Katherine's house riding a horse, emboldened by his quest to please his ghost of a mother, but hampered by his own weaknesses for chemical distractions and irresponsibility. It's the bum uncle routine without a comedic slant, instead making Scott a critical figure in the life of his nephew, an uptight, all-business boy who's concerned about schoolwork (which explains the awful title), yet drawn to Scott's blunt advice and iffy caregiving. Their relationship is of primary importance to Cole, who develops it to a peak of revelation in the final act, allowing Scott to tangle himself in the structure of the household, making Katherine nervous as she debates telling her husband about his brother's resurrection, still harboring feelings for her old beau. It's a dramatic bear trap that's obvious but passable, especially if there was tight writing to manage the external appeal of the characters while carefully exposing their raw wounds throughout the motion picture, braiding the three leads and their separate journeys of loneliness to a point of enticing tension.
Cox doesn't see the value of such rigorous narrative direction, instead playing distant with "Straight A's," overly reliant on musical montages to set the mood and move the story along, while failing to push his actors beyond their limitations, resulting in three hackneyed portrayals of doubt. The dramatics are mushy and unfocused, and the conflicts are insincere, often formulaic, especially with scenes that explore Katherine's complex feelings of attraction and regret around Scott, painfully aware of a choice she made a decade ago to be with William when her heart belonged to his brother.
What keeps Cox busy during "Straight A's" is cinematography by Shawn Kim, which is luxurious, filled with lens flares and enchanting visual distortions. It's a striking look for such a nondescript feature, showing more signs of life than any of the discord. Truthfully, it looks as though Kim is off making his own movie at times, pulling Cox's attention off the foreground action, which is always lost to sophisticated lighting and textured camerawork.
Straight A's Blu-ray, Video Quality
The AVC encoded image (2.45:1 aspect ratio) presentation faces quite an HD challenge, with the idiosyncratic cinematography creating a soft image, purposefully blurred at times, which often reads uncomfortably but not incorrectly. It appears original dramatic intent is preserved, with the disc keeping a clean view of intricate lighting schemes and unsettled colors, finding most hues quite approachable and expressive, giving the image a solid golden feel of spring in the south. Skintones also register with a human touch. Fine detail isn't always readily available, but textures are explored through close-ups and costuming, while locations show off a touchable feel of nature, and distances are open for inspection. Blacks are supportive and secure, challenged in full during evening excursions, which pull out some key visual information. Minor banding is also detected.
Straight A's Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The 5.1 Dolby TrueHD sound mix doesn't provide much in the way of sonic fireworks, yet its smooth, deep support of the visuals is quite welcome. Surrounds are tastefully employed to expand Scott's signs of madness with his dead mother, floating around in a circular manner that adds to the mystery. Atmospherics are also immersive, pushing out sounds of morning activity and wildlife. Soundtrack selections are pronounced, with a strong sense of instrumentation and voice, while bass is commendable, giving the track a distinct bottom to solidify the mood. Dialogue exchanges are crisp and detailed, preserving echoed interiors and dramatic intensity, while crowd sequences in casinos and lunchrooms remain uncluttered, sustaining performance accuracy and nuance.
Straight A's Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Straight A's Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
"Straight A's" gets grabby in its finale, reaching frantically for a medical malady conclusion that's unearned, rushing to reach a climax that's out to reduce the audience to a puddle of tears. Unfortunately, without a full breath of characterization to motivate such an emotional response, "Straight A's" ends up looking a little foolish, wrongly presuming that tragedy is the cure-all for a turgid, uneventful tale of forgiveness.
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