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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » True Love
True Love
MGM // R // January 7, 2003
List Price: $14.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Gil Jawetz | posted February 26, 2003 | E-mail the Author
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THE STRAIGHT DOPE:
Nancy Savoca's True Love (1989) hails from the glorious last days of independent filmmaking at its peak, before Sundance became a stomping ground for airheads like Britney and J.Lo. This down-to-Earth tale of love among the blue collar has strong characters, superb acting, razor-sharp dialog and a characterization of the outer borough Italian-American community that's far more realistic than practically any other film. It's the exact opposite of My Big Fat Greek Wedding, where broad humor and shallow ethnic stereotyping stood in for real characters and drama.

Unlike that disappointing mega-blockbuster (which might as well have starred Sandra Bullock, cost triple its budget, and grossed a tenth), True Love doesn't feature a meet-cute. It doesn't smear make-up on an "ugly" girl and make her beautiful. It doesn't unconvincingly pair up a hunk and a slob. What it does do is paint a vivid, messy, realistic portrait of Michael and Donna (Ron Eldard and Annabelle Sciorria, both superb), plus their families and friends, in the days leading up to their wedding. Michael is an insensitive jerk (he wants to go out with his friends at totally inappropriate times) and Donna, for all her frustration, is a bit overbearing (she wants to hook up with Michael after his bachelor party.) They love, they fight, they have tender moments and they have real lung-busting arguments. Domestic disturbances can be like nails on a chalkboard to my ears; Unbearable and inane. But never once do the characters here fall into simple droning cliche. Sure, they're types: Hard-living, hard-loving urban ethnic mooks, but they are individuals. Savoca never looks down on her characters and she never talks down to her audience.

Even though the story is simple, the characters aren't. Savoca's script gives her great cast a lot to work with and Eldard and Sciorra both turn in promising performances. They've both gone on to bigger things but they've rarely had the chance to approach characters from as many angles as they do here. Also excellent are a pair of actors who later turned up on The Sopranos: Aida Turturro and Vincent Pastore. Really, the whole cast is great.

Just like her writing and casting decisions, Savoca's pacing is right on. For a film with no discernible plot it really keeps the audience on the edge of its seat. There are real questions as to the strength of Michael and Donna's relationship and with a true, uncertain ending Savoca never betrays that.

VIDEO:
In a shameful move, MGM presents True Love in full-frame only. There are moments when action happens off-screen and I couldn't tell if that was by design or due to cropping. Still, it detracts from the film. Also, the image is overly gritty and grainy. Certainly some of this is due to the film's production, but the hint of digital compression was also present. Not a spectacular transfer, by any means.

AUDIO:
The Dolby Digital stereo soundtrack is limited in its range and somewhat muddy. Again, low-budget location filming contributes to the clattering soundtrack but careful attention on the part of those mastering for DVD probably could have rendered a lively urban soundscape. Not a terrible mix, but sloppy.

EXTRAS:
Just a trailer.

FINAL THOUGHTS:
This disc is slack in terms of the technicals (and I can see a better edition released at some point, but not soon) but the film is winning and smart. Fans of independent cinema should at least give it a rent. Unlike the noisy Greek Wedding, True Love is honest and real. But the same viewers should be able to appreciate it. A smart look at blue-collar life that doesn't contain drug deals-gone-wrong and mobster-wannabes is rare but when it's as strong as this it's worth the wait.

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