An admission up front: Films like Songs in Ordinary Time bore me right out of my skull. Made-for-TV adaptations of generic novels like the one penned by Mary McGarry Morris that bear the Oprah seal of approval guarantee one of two things -- redemption and cliche. Sometimes you even get both. I'm forever mystified by what attracts top-shelf talent like Sissy Spacek, Beau Bridges or Keir Dullea to mushy glop like this.
Adapted by Malcolm MacRury (who's penned everything from episodes of "Deadwood" to "Earth: Final Conflict") by the Morris novel of the same name, Songs in Ordinary Time focuses on Marie Fermoyle (Spacek), a resident of a small town in 1960 Vermont fighting to keep food on the table for her three children -- Alice (Careena Melia), Benjy (Jordan Warkol) and Norm (Tom Guiry) -- while dealing with the fallout from her divorce from the erratic, alcoholic Sam (Dullea). This being a conservative, religiously-minded town, the gossiping intensifies when Omar Duvall (Bridges), a mysterious drifter who breezes into the Fermoyles' lives and begins a slowly escalating flirtation with Marie.
While the main plot, that of Duvall slowly and patiently working to bleed Marie dry financially, holds together, there's just really nothing gripping about Songs -- it pretty much goes exactly where you'd expect it to (and what's with retaining the break points for commercials?), right down to the priest seducing the willfully headstrong Alice.
Rod Holcomb directs the whole thing competently; MacRury's screenplay saddles Bridges with some massive clunkers and there are moments, such as Marie and Duvall's first kiss, that are staged with a total lack of originality. Time and again, despite the actors' best efforts, you're left with a stale, seen-it-all-before feeling. Fans of the books heartily endorsed by the Oprah empire will probably find this long-in-coming adaptation a treat for rainy afternoons but everyone else should give this flick a wide berth.
Presented in a fine-looking 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer, Songs in Ordinary Time appears a bit flat and grainy in some sequences (hard to tell if that's age-related or simply the quality of the image) but is otherwise clean and clear. It's not reference quality, but then, it's hard to believe anyone would throw on this quaint period drama to show off a home theater set-up.
As with the visual end of things, the Dolby 2.0 stereo track is perfectly adequate and unremarkable (hey ... a lot like the film itself!), as dialogue and score are heard free of distortion and/or drop-out. As Songs in Ordinary Time is chiefly a chatter-heavy affair, there's little here for the speakers to do. An optional French Dolby 2.0 stereo track is included, as are optional English and French subtitles.
No supplements are included -- unless you count trailers for Rent: Filmed Live on Broadway, Girls Night In and Open Season 2.
While films like Songs in Ordinary Time often put me right to sleep, they aren't without their fans. One of the cornerstones of made-for-TV adaptations are predictability, something generic novels, like the one penned by Mary McGarry Morris and bearing the Oprah seal of approval. Inexplicably, big name actors are drawn to these projects like moths to the flame, which are competently directed if thuddingly scripted. Nevertheless, fans of the books heartily endorsed by her Oprah-ness will probably find this long-in-coming adaptation ideal for rainy afternoons but all others should pass. Rent it.