Burn-on-demand and digital downloads are not my thing. I write for a site called DVDTalk because the DVD (and Blu-Ray) formats are something I enjoy collecting. That said, not every film in the history of time with a B- or C-lister needs to be dredged up out of the history books and slapped on a $10 or $15 retail disc. I'm sure there are fans out there of Sweet William, a peculiar, poorly-paced, ridiculous romantic comedy from 1980 starring American Werewolf/Walkabout's Jenny Agutter, but it's hard to believe someone spent the time and effort pressing this movie onto plastic.
Agutter plays Ann, whose fiancee has just been shipped off to America. Things between herself and her departing beau are strained, and when she happens to meet a playwright named William (Sam Waterston), he (for reasons unbeknownst to me, not illustrated in the film) manages to charm her off her feet. The only problem is that William has charmed several women off their feet in his time, and hasn't bothered to stop on her account. As the movie progresses, the number of other girlfriends, wives and lovers begin to stack up, almost as fast as the viewer's patience will disappear.
Having seen her in several films, I know for a fact that Jenny Agutter is a charming actress with a bit of British edge that only increases her appeal, and even having to go off of Sweet William, her co-star Waterston seems pleasant enough. However, it's not so much that there's no chemistry between Ann and William and more that there's no reason for the audience to care about them as a couple. William sprints in, all smiles, and Agutter sells how smitten she is, but so what? Neither character is given sufficient time to develop, and since knowing the plot means knowing they're both cheaters, there's no reason to want them to live happily ever after.
Not that they ever could. Even if the viewer had a vested interest in the bonds that tie Ann and William, the film quickly devolves into a series of increasingly painful scenes where Agutter realizes that William is still seeing one of his other trysts. It's heartbreaking in a psychotic way to watch Ann's life crumbling around her for the sake of an insane person's idea of lighthearted comedy (as the film is being sold, at least in this DVD presentation). With each new reveal, William looks more like an asshole, and Ann looks more like a deluded idiot. What wonderful protagonists!
In case this still sounds somewhat appealing, the film also has a running subplot about Ann's mother (Daphne Oxenford) and her disapproval of Ann's real fiance. In order to sustain this completely uninteresting and basically irrelevant side thread, the film sends Ann on a 20 minute vacation in the country, away from William and the movie's central story, allowing her some time to think about her situation. A tip to all directors considering tones for their romantic comedies: alternating between agonizing and boring is not reccomended.
Sweet William pairs an eye-catching combination of white and pink with a photo of the two stars in their birthday suits. The box copy is overlong and ridiculously enthusiastic ("sure to please fans of both Jenny Agutter and Sam Waterston!"), but the package looks nice. No insert is included.
The Video and Audio
Presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, Sweet William is, sadly, only a notch or two above the quality usually found on $1 bargain-basement DVDs. Awash in a haze of rough grain (and in the case of challenging textures, like the swaying leaves in a tree, completely disgusting smears of artifact-filled mush), with what looks like significant edge enhancement and a sickly green tint, the best thing that can be said about Sweet William is that it isn't at all soft and the print chosen is in good shape (only light speckling throughout). Based on the image, the film looks about 15 years older than it is.
Dolby Digital 2.0 sounds better than the picture looks, but the score comes across as tinny and on the whole dialogue is "acceptably audible" as opposed to crystal clear. No subtitles or captions are provided.
None, aside from the film's original theatrical trailer.
I like Jenny Agutter. I picked Sweet William out of the DVDTalk screener pool because she was in it. I'm sure Scorpion Releasing hopes a few of you will do the same thing in a retail store. I regret my decision deeply. Don't make the same mistake -- skip it, like you would the opportunity to date someone juggling several relationships.
Please check out my other DVDTalk DVD, Blu-Ray and theatrical reviews and/or follow me on Twitter.