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Husbands and Wives

review by Zach B.

 

 

Rating: R (Language and a Scene Of Sexuality)

Running Time: 108 minutes

Starring: Woody Allen, Blythe Danner, Judy Davis, Mia Farrow, Juliette Lewis, Liam Neeson, Sydney Pollack

Written and Directed by: Woody Allen

 

Studio: Columbia/Tri-Star

Retail Price: $19.95

Features: Theatrical Trailers

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

Released: April 16th, 2002

 

 

In Woody Allen's "Husbands and Wives," our plot and setup kicks off instantly (and that's a great thing), as we meet married couples Gabe and Judy Ross and Jack and Sally. Jack and Sally arrive to go out to dinner with Gabe and Judy. Before they leave, however, Jack and Sally announce that they are splitting up. Gabe doesn't see this as a big deal, however, Sally is quite appalled and shocked at the whole idea. It drives her to some little madness, making it hard for her to connect and concetrate for the night. But Jack and Sally's demise brings up new questions on Gabe and Judy's relationship, and they decide to hook up with younger people to satisfy themselves. But as great, new things rise, older things start to fall apart. Envy from others rises, revenge and other forces that put the characters to question who they are and what they want.

Allen, of course, has gone through many famous (and infamous) relationships during the course of his life, and while relationships has been discussed in his past films, I'm sure that in "Husbands and Wives" hits closest to home to Allen. I obviously can't confirm it, but I bet his script and characters are based on his own relationships he's had with people, and from people you know. It's just this feeling I get. And I think this is a perfect kind of movie for Allen to write, since he's had a lot of different kinds of experiences with relationships. I'm sure he can pinpoint who inspired what and what inspired what. I do know for sure that you write from your own experiences most of the time, and with that said, "Husbands and Wives" is incredibly well crafted. It's like Allen knows these people and can just write stuff for the characters instantly... and I think that's what makes "Husbands and Wives" work.

All of the writing elements for a great script are here, and it adds up incredibly well. The story here is incredibly thick and rather deep. The characters are unique and very well developed. The dialogue is really natural, honest and very strong. All of these elements with a fine touch of humanity deep within. Allen makes very good and well deserved points here about relationships, about what we want as people, what we find, what we take and what we happen to get. But perhaps the beauty of his screenplay (that was nominated for an Oscar®), is that the path he puts our characters on is what we don't expect, yet somehow, incredibly realistic. People actually find happiness with younger lovers, but not for sexual relations, but rather, that somehow, they've found someone who likes them for who they are inside. Whereas in other movies, you have characters in May-December romances where one is basically using the other for something else. Relationships serve their purposes here, be it mutual or to serve as connecting points. He brings up incredibly true points about marriages and relationships, and that sometimes, we have to go through a lot to be happy, let alone realize things about ourselves before getting too serious in what we form with other people. I'd say "Husbands and Wives" is a definitive relationship movie and one of the best. There's just so much that Allen creates, and we can find something that we can relate to within it. He brings up so many different points and topics about relationships, he just nails it in so many great senses.

As far as Allen's directing style goes, this is a bit different than his usual narratives. Yes, it has moments of being a narrative, but the film really plays out like a documentary (though at times it did remind me of a reality television series, a craze that barely existed ten years ago). The shaky camera, camera shots just going on, the lack of cuts, the narrator and the people being interviewed about themselves, others and certain events (you even see the little microphones on them). This is a very cool and interesting approach to a movie like this, and I found it to be a better experience overall by him doing this. It's different. I think it makes it more effective actually, as if these were real people.

The performances are simply fantastic in "Husbands and Wives" and really give it a good touch, as these actors are pretty much playing real people for a documentary. They make them all human and touch upon their feelings and emotions with passion and the right way. Judy Davis was showered with nominations and awards for her portrayl as Sally. She's really wonderful, tense and emotional in the role, and she really graps it. She's really good. Woody is his usual, sly and insecure self. Mia Farrow shows her insecurities quite well and her plights, while Juliette Lewis and Liam Neeson are rather charming. Blythe Danner is quite good too, but Sydney Pollack is pretty extradoinary as Jack. I think Pollack is a really underrated actor. He's most notable for his directing of diverse films, but he takes a good deal of supporting performances time and time again, and they are always really strong and bring more to whatever he's in. "Husbands and Wives" is no exception.

Truly one of Allen's greatest triumphs, and one of his best films of the 1990s, "Husbands and Wives" is a movie that really deserves to be seen. You can really relate to some of these characters and what they go through, as we all have key relationships in our lives. It's about what revelations can do to people, what drives people and how when they don't have something, they realize that they either truly need it or don't. The themes of "Husbands and Wives" can go on and on... but I'll stop here. Sit down, enjoy and get something out of this. You won't be disappointed.

 

"Husbands and Wives" features two transfers: a 1.33:1 full screen version and a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen version. It's your choice, so choose which one you like... of course, I'm a widescreen nut, so the anamorphic transfer pleased me. You'll see more with the widescreen naturally, so that's good. Anyway, the transfers are quite grainy. This actually may be Allen's intention, since this film plays out like a documentary. It can be a little distracting, but I got used to it and really helps with the feel of the film. There are a good deal of blemishes, pieces of dirt, scratches and other little instances as well. I also noticed some noise too in some scenes. These do appear rather often. Fleshtones are very good and look quite nice, while colors are pretty well saturated with a good sense of boldness, feeling and look. So pretty good transfers overall.

 

Woody loves his mono, and you have an English or French mono track to choose from when watching the movie. This is a very straightforward track, just like in nearly every other mono mix. There are no surrounds or strong activity, everything here is placed as it should be. It comes out through the center channel and is all rolled into one, so it all comes out together in good uniform fashion. The fidelity on the mono tracks are average at best, while the music and sound effects are rather crisp and do sound nice. The dialogue is firm and clear as well as easy to hear, which is a great thing and obviously needed since like most Allen films, this one is driven by the words that come out of the characters. Basically, you can hear everything. You also get English subtitles, French subtitles, Spanish subtitles, Portuguese subtitles and English closed captions.

 

Two full screen Theatrical Trailers. One for "Husbands and Wives" and the other for "Manhattan Murder Mystery." Too bad MGM didn't handle this release... I always enjoy their "collectible booklets" provided for Allen films.

 

"Husbands and Wives," in my opinion, is one of Allen's best films. It has a wonderful amount of drama and rich characters, yet with it, comes Allen's great, insightful humor. This DVD is what you'd expect from an Allen release... bare bones in the supplements section and an average presentation. But that's okay... because if you buy this, you're really buying it for a superbly crafted film.