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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Diner
Diner
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Review by Chris Hughes | posted April 26, 2000 | E-mail the Author
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Features: Widescreen (Anamorphic) Letterboxed - 1.85:1. Available Audio Tracks: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono), French (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono). Making Of Documentary With Director Barry Levinson And The Cast. Introduction by Barry Levinson. Theatrical Trailer. Bonus Theatrical Trailers.

The Movie:
Diner isn't the kind of film that can be summed up in a few words. It has no plot to speak of. Rather it's a kind of extended mood piece constructed around a large number of very memorable set pieces. What story there is concerns the exploits of five fast friends who like to chase women, cause a little mayhem and hang out at the local diner.

Though you'd think from that description that Diner would have little to hang your hat on but the film is quite entertaining and satisfying. The cast includes Steve Guttenberg, Daniel Stern, Mickey Rourke, Kevin Bacon, Ellen Barkin and Paul Reiser. An interesting mix indeed and one that seems to work. Each of the actors (with the passable exception of Rourke) plays with a great deal of enthusiasm and realism. Director Barry Levinson, whether through inexperience or calculated technique, encouraged the eclectic cast to improv many of their lines and the result is a compelling and easygoing atmosphere. Diner has no good guys or bad guys and that's a big part of its success. Each of the characters has a unique set of realistic and relatable motivations and their behavior seem completely consistent within the context of the film.

Of course Diner's greatest strength lies in the numerous unforgettable set pieces. There's the Football Quiz, the roast beef sandwich conversation, the argument over filing records alphabetically and many more. Of course the soundtrack featuring The Belmonts, Bobby Darin, Jerry Lee Lewis and others creates a nice retro mood and should keep your foot tapping even in the slower stretches.


The Picture:
Diner features a fairly standard anamorphic transfer. The film elements themselves seem to be in very good shape. There's only the slightest hint of dust and scratches to be seen. Many of the scenes take place at night or in low light indoor locations. Though the shadow detail is good, the contrast is a bit shallow making some of the film look overly smoky. On the other hand, colors are nicely saturated and there are no digital artifacts to be seen aside from one or two minor instances of jaggy edges on some of the brighter objects. All in all its a descent transfer with a satisfyingly filmic look.

The Sound:
The audio tracks are presented in the original mono format. This should come as good news to purists. The mix is about what you'd expect from a dialogue driven film. The voices are crisp and clear. I was able to hear a few examples of overload when characters yelled but nothing so pronounced that it took me out of the movie. The music is balanced with dialogue quite nicely, never becoming intrusive or masking the voices.

The Extras:
Diner has a couple of notable extras. First off you'll find trailers for several of Levinson's films including Diner itself. Next up is a fun 30 minute retrospective behind the scenes documentary. All of the cast and Levinson himself take part (with the notable exception of Mickey Rourke) and relate dozens of great anecdotes related to the film's production. Kevin Bacon and Paul Reiser are particularly entertaining. Finally there's a short introduction to the film in which the principal cast and Levinson offer advice for first time Diner watchers. This footage was taken from the same source as that of the documentary and though it's enjoyable once you don't have the option to turn it off or skip over it. Every time you watch the film you're forced to watch the intro.

Conclusion:
Diner is a classic movie that seems to get better with each viewing. The presentation on this DVD, while not stunning, is more than adequate. My only gripe with this disc is the unskipable introduction piece but even that is a minor annoyance. If you're an established Diner fan you'll want this DVD in your collection. Others should probably rent it first to see if they connect with the characters and situations.

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