Catherine Deneuve seems to have an aloof personality and a rather cold exterior. This is not her fault. It's just the way she looks. But it limits her abilities as an actress. And even though she has been in dozens of movies in her long career she often just seems to be a little beyond reach. In Nearest to Heaven, directed by Tonie Marshall, she is cast just right as Fanette - an dispassionate art historian whose longings are stirred when she receives a letter from a man named Philippe, her first love.
The film is set up as a romantic comedy/ drama. Fanette is a single woman in her 50's who still looks terrific and still has the belief that she can meet Mr Right. Other than the fact that she can see a tiny bit of the Eiffel Tower from her Paris apartment the only bit of romance in her life at the moment comes when she frequents an old movie theatre that just happens to be showing An Affair to Remember a 1957 tearjerker starring Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr.
Fanette relates to the characters on screen in a way that she cannot in her own life. But she wants to. She has so many problems with her own family and friends at home that she decides the only way out is to pursue the mysterious letter, which instructs her to go to the Empire State Building on New Year's Eve.
Formalistically Nearest to Heaven goes back and forth, to some degree of success, between an art house film and a mainstream movie. Many of the scenes are well directed and the pacing while slow is good. But most of the scenes do not hang very well together as a whole. And once the film's [reluctant] romance between the two leads begins it stumbles considerably.
William Hurt play Matt an American photographer who is assigned to take the photos for a book that Fanette is writing. He is an awkward American who broods and mumbles his words. Unlike Fanette he has no refined edges and is about as romantic as an olive pit - which in one scene he spits into a glass. But somehow he manages to capture Fanette's interest.
Well shot by Agnes Godard Nearest to Heaven is worth a look if only because Deneuve is so good in the role of a character that really fits her acting abilities well.
The film is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.66:1 and is enhanced for 16 x 9. It looks very good.
Audio is in stereo in Dolby stereo and Dolby Digital 5.1. The first half is in French the second in English. English subtitles can be removed.
The extras are good. They include six deleted scenes which last about 10 minutes. The scenes add just a little to the film. One in particular has Deneuve telling a dirty joke. Next is a Interview with Tonie Marshall that runs 16 minutes. This is a good interview in which Marshall talks about Deneuve [who she wrote the film for], the making of the film and the way in which it changed over time. She also reads into her film as a film critic would. There is a Making of Featurette that lasts 13 minutes. It mainly shows behind-the-scene footage on the set with Deneuve. There is a trailer for the film and five Catherine Deneuve trailers for Place Vendome, The Convent, My Favorite Season, Pola X and One Hundred and One Nights, which she doesn't actually seem to be in - although her name is mentioned by one of the characters. Lastly are partial Filmographies.
Nearest to Heaven is for Catherine Deneuve fans only. An aloof French woman meets up with an awkward American man in New York and a romance begins. Extras are modest but help add context and meaning to the film.