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Click above to purchase "Things You Can Tell Just By Looking At Her" at amazon.com

 

Things You Can Tell Just By Looking At Her

review by Zach B.

 

Rated R

Studio: MGM

Running Time: 109 minutes

Starring Glenn Close, Cameron Diaz, Calista Flockhart, Amy Brenneman, Holly Hunter, Kathy Baker, Valeria Golino, Matt Craven, Gregory Hines

Written and Directed by Rodrigo Garcia

Retail Price: $19.98

Features: Theatrical Trailer

Specs: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, English Dolby Digital 5.1, French Stereo Surround, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1, English Closed Captions, French Subtitles, Spanish Subtitles, Scene Selections (32 Scenes)

It's always such a shame when great movies, great movies that are meant to reach out to people, to inspire people and give hope to people simply can't for one reason or another. It's always such a shame when movies that are meant to become classics, movies that touch the heart and movies that are meant to become part people's lives will never be able to do any of those things. "Things You Can Tell Just By Looking At Her" is one of these movies, and if you have the chance to see it, you better not miss it.

Those really into film may have heard about and know the somewhat extensive history behind it. This movie debuted at a few film festivals (Sundance most notably) and scored some rave reviews, praising the subject matter, raw acting and sensibility the movie had. Unfortuantley, as months went by, it seemed doubtful the movie would find its way to theaters in the United States. While it never did find its way there, the movie was not totally lost. It debuted on the pay cable channel Showtime, and as of writing this, it even coughed up an Emmy nomination for Holly Hunter. This was a movie meant to be seen in theaters and was meant to reach a lot of people.

"Things You Can Tell Just By Looking At Her" is an anthology film of sorts about women, and all the stories are somehow loosely connected. The first story, called "This Is Dr. Keener" has Glenn Close as a doctor who is a bit sick of taking care of her elderly and ill mother. As she consults a tarot card reader (Calista Flockhart), Dr. Keener has to realize her life needs more to make it better.

The second story, "Fantasies About Rebecca", has Holly Hunter as a bank manager obviously named Rebecca who thinks her life is going well, until she sees herself in a homeless woman who keeps bothering and pestering her. From there, she does get pregnant from her boyfriend (Gregory Hines) who never seems to be around. Hunter knows things to make things richer are missing.

The third story, and my favorite one, is entitled "Someone For Rose." It follows a single mother named Rose (Kathy Baker), who writes children's books and takes care of her sexually active fifteen year-old son. A dwarf named Albert moves across the street from them, and while there is some apprehension, the two get to know one another and Rose starts to get very interested.

"Goodnight Lily, Goodnight Christine" has the tarot card leader Christine from before, that being Calista Flockhart, facing that her lesbian lover Lily is dying from cancer. As Christine takes care of her, she must also come to gripes with her depression from all of it.

Finally, "Love Waits For Kathy" has a police detective named Kathy (Amy Brenneman) who is really lonely as she does her work and help her blind sister Carol (Cameron Diaz) out. As Carol starts dating and pokes fun at her sister, Kathy soon starts to realize how lonely she really is.

I'm a big sucker for movies that intertwine as I've said before, and I really enjoyed that here. The connections are there, but it's not overdone. Still, what makes this movie so great is cinematographer Rodrigo Garcia's writing and directing debut. He must really know women, because he really taps into their thoughts here. His key thing here is about women who are looking to find their own sort-of fulfillment to make their lives better. Each woman has something to face and come to terms with, and all the stories are represented with that theme here brilliantly. Not to mention Garcia's symbolisms that also intertwine nicely as well.

Garcia's writing skills are really fantastic. The stories are downright interesting and really creative, as he creates well-developed characters in such short periods of time. They are really, really believable. The dialogue flows well, the emotions are real and everything just seems natural.

Garcia's directing skills on the other hand are very good for a first-time director. While some of the stuff is a bit plan and boring as visuals, he does establish some very nice shots, good cuts and gives this story a very good flow. While I wished other stories did last a little longer, things here are pretty damn even. But with it, I wish there was more insight onto the issues the women have to face. Still, it's all a very solid debut.

Yet what makes it all the more beautiful is the incredible ensemble Garcia has put together. Everyone in this movie is so damn brilliant. Glenn Close is a bit stern and comes across well in her scenes, while Calista Flockhart is pretty dazzling as Christine, not to mention her monologues in her story. Amy Brenneman fits the bill perfectly as the lonely detective, while Cameron Diaz does a heartlifiting and excellent job as the blind Carol... you feel that Diaz is actually this young blind woman. But the real standouts in this movie, at least I felt, were Kathy Baker and Holly Hunter. Baker shows off some great vulnerable moments as a woman just looking for some love where she least expects to find it, her curiousity and friendly nature come to represent her. It works well that way. And Hunter... man, like usual she gives an amazing performance with a woman mixed-up in herself and needs where she must realize she's at a place where a lot of women yearn to be, yet she doesn't have what other women have. There's just something about her and the character that click together well since there's so much in the story and characters there. Truly one of the best acting ensembles I've seen in a long time, as it is filled with so many great actresses.

I find it to be a travesty that this movie and other great independent films will never reach a wide audience because distributors are too afraid that the subject matter is too taboo and that they simply can't make any money off of them, that it's more trouble to distribute than it's worth. Even though I can't make a difference, I urge studios greatly to not be afraid. Movies like this can really make an impact on a big audience if they are carefully marketed and promoted. "Things You Can Tell Just By Looking At Her" is a great feat in moviemaking with such great stories and characters, I really find it sad how this movie will never be seen by its key audience. Please, please check it out. People will be quick to dismiss this one as a chick flick, but it really isn't. This movie can appeal to both sexes as it entertains really well, not to mention how sensetive it comes across it. Again... it's a must see.

The film comes in two aspect ratios on this DVD edition, 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen and 1.33:1 full frame. 1.85:1 on one side, 1.33:1 on the other. The transfers could have been better, I was expecting a bit better in a way, but not in other ways considering this movie doesn't have such a hardcore audience. Besides the point, colors are well saturated and fleshtones are decent. Sometimes this transfer looks pretty sharp, other times it looks a bit murky and dark. There is grain on the image, while a good amount of blemishes, pieces of dirt, blotches, specks and scratches come across throughout the movie. Black levels and detail are pretty decent as well. There is also some slight shimmering at times. I would have liked better, but I've seen worse.

The English 5.1 Dolby Digital is nothing great, and I'm not surprised. This movie is really, and I mean really, dialogue driven. Dialogue is clear and easy to hear, it's not distorted, muffled or overpowered by other sounds in any way. As far surrounds and other sounds, there's not much. Fidelity is very good and the contemporary score brings life to the channels. Background noises such as cars whizzing by on streets sound pretty good. .1 LFE extension is pretty weak, as I did expect. This mix fits the movie well, and while it does try to bring more life to it, it doesn't succeed so well. A Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital track and a French stereo surround track is also included, plus English closed captions, French subtiles and Spanish subtitles.

Incredibly disappointing. The Theatrical Trailer is on the DVD, and interesting enough, it's in full frame on the full frame side and anamorphic widescreen on the anamorphic widescreen size. It is a little bit of ironic to have that here considering this movie never got theatrical distribution in the United States. An audio commentary from Garcia and interviews with the leading ladies on the movie's themes would have been appreciated.

"Things You Can Tell Just By Looking At Her" is a real gem, and a movie that is meant to be seen but will be ingored by a mass audience. If you see it gathering dust on a video or DVD shelf, please don't let it. Do check it out and enjoy one fine film. It's a shame this DVD does not feature any worthwhile supplements, but the retail price is good and the movie is worth owning.

(4.5/5 - NOT included in final score)

(3.5/5)

(3/5)

(.5/5)

(3/5, NOT an average)

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