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Butterflies Are Free

review by Zach B.

 

 

Rating: PG

Running Time: 109 minutes

Starring: Goldie Hawn, Eileen Heckart, Edward Albert

Screenplay by: Leonard Gershe
Based upon his play

Directed by: Milton Katselas

 

Studio: Columbia/Tri-Star

Retail Price: $19.95

Features: Theatrical Trailers

Specs: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, 1.33:1 Full Screen, English Mono, English Subtitles, French Subtitles, Spanish Subtitles, Portuguese Subtitles, Chinese Subtitles, Korean Subtitles, Thai Subtitles, English Closed Captions, Scene Selection (28 Scenes)

Released: April 23rd, 2002

 

 

"Are you homosexual?"

"No, just blind."

 

Don Baker (Edward Albert) is a nice, young and blind man who's trying to escape his obsessed, overprotective mother (Eileen Heckart) and make his own life in San Fransisco. Don doesn't feel he has independence he needs and deserves from his mother. Don's living alone in his apartment is sort of a trial run: if he can't make it on his own in three months, he'll move back home. Through his new home, he meets his next door neighbor, Jill Tanner (Goldie Hawn). Jill is a free spirit of sorts, a young actress from Los Angeles trying to make it big. The two become fast friends and connect quite easily and naturally.

Not all is well though. As Jill teaches Don the other sides of life he doesn't quite know about, Don does the same for Jill (I suppose opposites do attract). Still, Don's mother isn't quite pleased with Don being on his own, let alone his relationship with Jill, and later on, Jill is offered an acting job in a play who also has other things in mind for Jill.

If the confines of "Butterflies Are Free" mostly feel small despite the big city backdrop, it's really supposed to feel that way. The main characters are kept to only a few players, which is no surprise since the late Leonard Gershe adapted the screenplay from his own stage play. This is a very good, symbolic story with great, quirky characters to make it very sweet and insightful. The title says it all basically about the play's themes (as it refers to a poem Jill says in the film and a song Don sings).

The play dynamics of the story may not appeal to everyone, but I warmed up to it quickly. This movie has tons and tons of talking, and I know not everybody likes dialogue exchanges, no matter how honed and wonderful they may be (such as in this movie). Milton Katselas' directing is solid, but most of the film really works due to the incredbly strong acting and Gershe's great script.

Gershe's dialogue is witty, sharp and really, really careful. How he sets everything up and develops his characters through their own personas, relationships and instincts is really well done. There is some excellent writing to be found here, as it just keeps on going and going, but so much is learned and established in his dialogue. How the story also flows and how the characters learn to appreciate their lives and the needs of others is also well thought out. There is a lot to be found throughout here. So much is expressed in the story, and there is a lot of depth that can be explored concerning life and freedom. A lot of it is about caring despite flaws, and a lot of love.

The performances here are incredibly good, and very natural. All the actors share a natural bonafide chemistry you really just can't force. Eileen Heckart won an Oscar® for her performance as Don's caring, overprotective and overbearing mother. She really deserved it, as she sets on the right tone, the right mannerisms and her worried, straight nature. It's pretty fun when she talks with Jill and Don. Goldie Hawn delivers another solid performance as Jill, who, like other characters she played, is incredibly delightful, loopy and out there. She's excited, very funny, naive and charming. Still, Edward Albert is quite good as Don Baker himself. You really believe he's blind (I wonder if he studied blind people for the role). But with that, he learns with his handicap, Jill and comes off a better person, and we see it. Albert's performance is suave, also charming and is just plain natural. Great acting overall from our players and they really have great interactions. Top that off with a well paced story that moves quick with great themes, is fun and empowers, and you have yourself a nifty little movie.

 

"Butterflies Are Free" has a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer and 1.33:1 full screen transfer (one on each side of the disc). The movie is three decades old, but looks average. Fleshtones and detail come off decent, but color saturation isn't spectacular. Top it off with incredibly annoying grain, tons of blemishes, nicks, scratches and pieces of dirt and is a bit faded, not to mention soft. I guess you have to expect that kind of treatment for such an old movie that's not considered a major classic. Still, the flaws add up and get annoying. It's really too bad. Edge enhancment is present too, not to mention some noise and shimmering. Personally, the 1.85 ratio looked a little cropped to me, but it's probably just me and my crazy ways. Still, the 1.33:1 full screen transfer... majorly cropped. So, take your pick and try not to get really annoyed at the flaws.

 

All that's here is an English mono track. The movie is thirty years old, and still suits it quite well. Not much to say. There's some interference, but the dialogue elements are intact. There are some nice effects from the music and bustling noises of the city streets and places, as well as the rain, but that's about it. It works, and that's important. I'm sure if everything was in great shape a 5.1 mix could have been made, but it's better this way and it's fine. You also get English subtitles, French subtitles, Spanish subtitles, Portuguese subtitles, Chinese subtitles, Korean subtitles, Thai subtitles and English closed captions.

 

We have Theatrical Trailers. One for "Cactus Flower," one for "Groundhog Day" and one more for "Seems Like Old Times." Since one of these have to do with our feature film and are more like bonus trailers, this section gets a zero on the score board.

 

"Butterflies Are Free" is a great character comedy with important themes. The DVD is nice with a fine mono mix and good transfers. No extras except those bonus trailers though. If you're interested it and like character comedies, be sure to rent it. If you like the movie, it's worth adding to your collection.