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Flesh and Bone

review by Zach B.



Rating: R (For Language, Some Sexuality and a Scene of Intense Violence)

Running Time: 126 minutes

Starring: Dennis Quaid, Meg Ryan, James Caan, Gwyneth Paltrow, Scott Wilson, Christopher Rydell

Written and Directed by: Steve Kloves


Studio: Paramount

Retail Price: $24.99

Features: None

Specs: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, English Dolby Digital 5.1, English Dolby Surround, English Subtitles, English Closed Captions, Scene Selection (12 Scenes)

Released: April 16th, 2002



"Flesh and Bone" is the story of Arlis Sweeny (Dennis Quaid), a Texan who struggles to overcome some past demons, namely him watching his father wipe out most of a family when he is younger. Years later, Arliss, who doesn't seem to be doing too much with his life, runs into Kay Davies (Meg Ryan). Kay doesn't have too much going for her as well, but as there is some kind of chemistry going on between them, Kay shows Arliss a picture of her family. Not a big deal, right? Well, it just so happens that this family is the same family that Arlis' father killed. Arlis starts to have apprehension around Kay because of this. Naturally, Arlis' father Roy (James Caan) returns. Arlis hates his father for all the right reasons and the past basically, and now it's time for the truth to come out and for everyone to come to terms with their own respective pasts while facing up to what the future may bring.

Steve Kloves is a filmmaker I do respect, and while he's more known for his screenwriting efforts, his second directorial outing here (and his only recent one) is very good. But before I go into his directing, I'll talk about the writing here. Kloves also wrote the film, and while it may seem standard to some, I found many elements of his plot and screenplay to be strikingly original. His characters here are very firm and well developed throughout. We get the drifting and loning sense of Arlis, and who he is and why for that matter. Roy is just one mean bastard with his own problems while Kay has some identity struggles looking for escapes, trying to find out who she may be. Still, I must admit I am a sucker for movies dealing with old wounds opening right back up, especially when the key players must confront the past and start to realize what their fate in the future might be. Characters here are catalysts of one another, and that works very well here. There are some very good confrontations within the film as well as build up. The Texas backdrop is pretty wondrous and fits perfectly with the story. The dialogue is very strong too, though I must admit it's somewhat clichéd since each character is different and has a certain role to play within the film. But there is a cohesive sense throughout as the past reawakens and the characters meet up again. There are some pretty intense moments here.

Kloves' directing is excellent and his style got me more into the film. He has some really excellent shots here that are rather poetic, not to mention beautifully haunting. The pacing of the story and his flow throughout worked well for me. He touches up the film with some great wideshots of landscapes and conveys various symbolisms throughout. There is a lot of emptiness to be found inside the characters, as there is that whole sense of guilt and escape, people feeling alone and feel that they are going nowhere. There are many parallels to Kloves' story as far as linking the characters to their jobs and the setting. This movie can be explored on a lot of levels, and I think that's what makes it so good. It's about guilt. It's about the past. It's about fate and destiny. And it's about all of these elements coming together with high emotions as we must take grip and face are inner fears. Through the visuals and writing, there is amazing stuff that struck cores within me and stayed with me long after I finished watching the film. Not many films do that to me. Arguably, a lot of the elements have been done before... but it's really how Kloves crafts this story and his characters which makes it feel rather fresh. For the past and knowing who we are do make important elements of life, and isolating ourselves from our troubles tend to make things worse usually. It seperates us from reality and other people. The film, through its events, is about us overcoming that.

The ensemble in the film is wonderful. Dennis Quaid churns out one of his best performances ever. He's the perfect fit for Arliss. Quiad emotionally connects with him and does wonders for the characters. I don't know if it's because Quaid had his own problems with drug abuse and all, but he captures the mysteriousness that is Arliss; the sadness and trauma that is him and always haunts him. Quaid grabs hold of the character and through his facial expressions, his emotions and mannerisms, comes to really make this movie and represent what it is. As Arlis meets Kay and opens up, and as his father returns, he becomes more and more intense, as he has to face and live up to it all. He shares great chemistry with then wife, Meg Ryan, who plays Kay. Ryan breaks out of her usual leading romantic role, puts on an accent and bares her soul, complete with that Texas accent. Kay is someone who is lost and lonely, pretty much like Arlis. And yes, their meeting brings a whole chain of events, but her different type of role here works quite well. She's tremendous. There's an innocent quality to her, but yes, she hides things too yet somehow is very open to things. The character is interesting, because Kay is depressing, yet somehow still upbeat. This is also one of Ryan's best roles, in my opinion. On the other side, in one of her first bigger roles, Gwyneth Paltrow steps up with this certain nastiness and strong sensibilties. It's a strong sign of what was to come for her. She's pretty stunning in her role, and shows how versatile she is as an actress. Finally, there's James Caan. Wow. He's used to playing all sorts of messed up bad guys, and he's great here. His Texan drawl, his commanding evil and overtone, and all that evil deep inside him, Caan as Roy is very entertaining to watch. His strict presence and him playing off the other actors works pretty beautifully. I felt some fear inside every time he popped up on screen. He's a strong villain because he's so real and Caan takes charge of his past and flaws. He's a bad brute, and there's so much to the character and the performance in which Caan brings. On another note, Thomas Newman's score is great too. It's sad and like the film, has haunting qualities to it.

"Flesh and Bone" is a really underrated drama that features a strong story, great directing and great actors to bring it all to life. While it's not for everyone and is slightly flawed, it's incredibly compelling and has little bits that we can all relate to. The film wasn't a success at all and seems to have spun into movie oblivion, but if you discover this gem on the shelf, be sure to check it out if you love drama and a strong cast of characters. It's a solid and powerful film.


"Flesh and Bone" features a pretty spiffy 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. It's slightly grainy, and has a few blemishes and pieces of dirt on the print, but those never get distracting. The real beauty of this transfer is how sharp and strong it looks throughout. Fleshtones are flawless and colors are bright and very well saturated. There is great depth to the image, as much of it pops right out at you. Detail is impeccable, especially in those shots of the Texas scenery which are strong but have this inentional bleak look to them. Those shots of buildings, of the open road and more are pretty cool if you ask me, and the hues on those shots are spot on. There's also some slight noise on the transfer here and there, but it's not that noticable. Overall, solid work here.


There's not much to say about the 5.1 Dolby Digital English track. The mix is pretty predictable and straight forward. The movie is dialogue heavy, and while the dialogue is crisp and clear, there are some action packed surrounds throughout such as the opening with the gunshots and the snow globe breaking, the bar scene where Arlis meets Kay and another scene with a gun, among others. When guns are fired, it sounds great. They're loud and are mixed as if the shots were coming at you. Thomas' Newman score brings a nice atmosphere to the mix and envelopes nicely. Fidelity is pretty high and there is an overall good ambiance to the track. Also included are English subtitles, English closed captions and an English Dolby Surround track.


Sadly, nothing. I would have liked a commentary from Kloves. There are twelve chapter stops though... and there is a lot of time in between each one.


"Flesh and Bone" is a great character drama about the pain the past can bring, isolation, escape and coming to terms with everything. The DVD has a good presentation, but sadly, has no extras to speak of. This is an underrated movie if you ask me, and if you see it at your video store, be sure to rent it and check it out. It may be a bit lengthy and long for some, maybe boring, but if you like good cinema, you'll keep wanting to know what happens and love the intrigue surrounding the characters. But if you're a fan of the film, it's worth adding to your collection for sure.