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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Coast to Coast
Coast to Coast
Showtime // R // October 12, 2004
List Price: $26.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Robert Spuhler | posted February 7, 2005 | E-mail the Author
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The screenwriter walks a tightrope when constructing a story against an anti-hero. The audience has to like the character enough to warrant spending the next two hours finding out how (s)he solves his/her problem, yet there must be room for growth and a sort of skin-peel on an ugly element of human nature.

Screenwriter Frederic Raphael, adapting the script from his own novel, falls off said tightrope early on in Coast to Coast crafting dual protagonists that are so grating, grouchy and generally unlikable that, from an early point, the audience can do little other than root for their downfall.

Barnaby (Richard Dreyfuss) is an out-of-work television writer with a marriage that is falling apart – not just at the seams. He and his wife, Maxine (Judy Davis), decide to drive across country for their daughter's wedding, agreeing to finalize their divorce after the ceremony. The drive acts as the metaphorical "handcuffs" that bind Maxine and Barnaby together as they visit old acquaintances and learn to love again.

The script is set up in its entirety in the first ten minutes, and it is here that the film's biggest problem rears its head; Coast to Coast has no sense of subtlety. The back-story comes fast and furious in cringe-worthy dialogue between Dreyfuss and a nosy neighbor. Plot points and revelations are handled with all the care of a sledgehammer. Nothing is left for the audience to deduce; it's all laid out in stark relief for the audience to absorb, but never think about.

At no point in the script or in the performances did I believe, even for a second, that there was an ounce of true affection or love between Dreyfuss or Davis. That's not to say that Dreyfuss and Davis did a poor job – both are tremendous actors and I thought Dreyfuss' performance was one of his best in the last few years. However, there was nothing in the script or the shot choices that showed why these two would be together in the first place.

Moreover, both Dreyfuss and Davis spend their conversations exclusively sniping at each other. It may be realistic, but it does not make for an interesting relationship for a film.

The DVD

Video:

The 1.78:1 anamorphic video presentation eschews any detail on black surfaces and is soft throughout most of the picture. It does make use of a good color palette, though. A fair amount of grain is seen, especially in darker scenes.

Audio:

The box cover advertises a Dolby Digital 5.1 track, but it my DVD player and receiver did not pick up a subwoofer signal. The track is clean and adequate for the dialogue-driven film.

Extras:

The director commentary with Paul Mazursky is illuminating. He talks quite often about having to hunt down locations for an American road movie while staying within the confines of the area surrounding Toronto, and it's nice to hear someone be as critical about that process as possible without stepping on toes. Overall, Mazursky does a pretty good job filling the track with information.

There is also a photo gallery and a pathetic "Behind the Scenes" segment that is all of two minutes. It looks like an extended commercial, possibly something Showtime ran over the closing credits of another movie.

Final Thoughts:

With unlikable characters and on-the-nose dialogue, Coast to Coast is a major disappointment considering the cast involved. While Showtime has, on occasion, turned out interesting made-for-cable pictures, this certainly is not one of them and is an easy candidate to skip.

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