Norma Rae Blu-ray Review
1979 Norma Rae was released by 20th Century
Fox to tremendous reviews, word of mouth, and critical acclaim. It
huge success and went on to earn four Academy Award nominations,
Picture. It earned Sally Field an Academy Award for her performance in
role. Norma Rae is a genuine American
any great piece of art can be emotionally resonant and powerful. With Norma Rae, here is a film that seeks to
remind us of the profound importance of the unity of people, and also
impact that can be felt because of the determination of a few. Sally
delivers one of her career best performances as Norma Rae, a millworker
South who sets herself apart from others as she's determined to make
business owners aware of the need to make improvements to their mill
conditions and environment. Reuben (Ron Leibman), a unionizing worker
York, soon arrives in the same small town with words about joining a
working as a team to fight for better working conditions. The efforts
lead to more interest from the employees of the mill and the effort is
recognized by Norma.
long before Norma becomes invested in the Union movement and spends
of her waking moments (that aren't spent working at the mill)
union organizing work to recruit others and to bring together enough
individuals into a team that can stand up against the mill owners and
for better working conditions.
same time, Norma must also deal with her husband Sonny (Beau Bridges),
doesn't understand or appreciate her immense efforts in working to
mill and wants her to focus more on things like "cooking and
cleaning" at home. In one scene, Norma demonstrates exactly how much
idea is both so trivial and time consuming when she is working to fight
union formation. Tensions build in their
relationship and as they become colder to one another Norma begins to
feelings for Reuben, even though these are emotions she largely tucks
because of their separate relationships, as both her and Reuben are
early scene of the film, Norma is trying to speak to her mother, who
at the mill, and she realizes that she cannot hear anything she has
mother became temporarily deaf. Norma barges into the room of the mill
executives demanding that they do something to help her mother and that
shouldn't happen. She soon receives a generic response of "this
happens" and Norma responds to them with the electrifying "not to MY
mother!" which is one major example of the dramatic energy and
Sally Field brought to the role - with a performance so compelling and
believable that it makes the story hold even more gravitas.
was such a massive issue and the film made it's point through this
topic. Unfortunately, unionization is no longer what it once was within
- nor is it as successful globally. There are now many more foreign
where workers are having to go through the same kinds of experiences in
to fight for a union and for better working conditions. This means that
topic of unionization as discussed in this film is still quite relevant
the film, the screenplay by Irving Ravetch and Harriet Frank, Jr.
bring forth compelling characterizations and a dramatically compelling
to the storytelling. Many real-life stories were read in order to
fictional Norma Rae character of the film. While there is a narrative
the story it is something inspired by and also based around actual
events. The Norma Rae character was
upon a combination of several real individuals who worked to support
unionization. The end result is a movie that succeeds at feeling
its realization and that never seems to be simply pandering. Everything about the story seems to have been
realized by the screenwriters with the upmost seriousness and care.
Ritt's direction is an equally invigorated match to the written words.
style in the film seems highly observational and the film manages to
almost like a narrative documentary at times as a result. The
always at the core of the direction, too. The impressive performances
from the cast
of the film helps to demonstrate the idea of Ritt as an actor's
someone who paid the upmost attention to how the performances given
the quality of the film and could make the effort even better (or
with a dramatically solid style, Ritt made sure to try and bring the
of the whole cast of Norma Rae and it
is apparent that the results desired during production were achieved.
cold, and downtrodden cinematography by John A. Alonzo aids the
well. It manages to evoke the feeling of
the harsh working conditions with its overcast and muted design. The
conditions and the struggle of forming the mill's union seems so
realized through Alonzo's cinematography, which is a perfect match with
a great film comes along that just amazes in almost every respect. Norma Rae is that type of incredible
work of art; the sort of film that completely absorbs the viewer. The fact that the filmmaking does so from the
first frame to the quiet but deeply moving end is incredible to behold
kind of thing that makes seeing movies such a fantastic part of the
and social zeitgeist. When such an
experience happens one knows that it has been an experience worth
great film gives us insight into the world we live in and of what kinds
we like to share as part of the human experience.
Rae is a
film that speaks to the abilities
and strengths sometimes shared in fighting for something of great worth
this case: fighting for unions. The effort to join together to help
better working conditions for those in the mill and for other Blue
workers.) Ultimately, the message of the
film is one that champions the strength of the human spirit. Norma Rae is a universally important
story and this film is one that is not to be missed.
on Blu-ray with an
incredibly impressive MPEG-4 AVC encoded 1080p presentation of the film
original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.40:1 at 36 mbps. With a
noteworthy film-like transfer that retains all of the original grain
has thankfully avoided being digitally scrubbed with DNR the film looks
imagine the presentation likely did when Norma Rae was first
released as a theatrical print.
reproduction, depth, and overall clarity of the presentation is
This is a downright stunning, top-notch transfer that keeps the spirit
of the cinematography
as intended. The presentation doesn't seem to stray from the source
it's intended look, which makes both the encoding and the scan worthy
includes two lossless audio presentation options: English 1.0 DTS-HD
Audio mono and French dubbed 1.0 DTS-HD Master Audio mono. For the
this review, I listened to the English lossless mix. The sound was a
disappointing compared to the video transfer. Certain scenes sounded a
and harsh and the entire presentation lacked a significant sound
news is that the lossless audio boost does provide the presentation
crisper vocals and more detail than previous releases of the film. It's
a bit disappointing,
nonetheless, that the original audio elements were either not available
better condition or that more time was not spent to ensure the
most satisfactory of audio presentations.
on this Norma Rae Blu-ray debut is
something that could have been better sounding. I don't have
the restoration process the film's audio elements may have gone through
prepare for this release but I feel it does not meet my usual audio
for classic cinema. The Norma Rae
lossless audio is entirely average and it seems to be a merely
aspect of the release.
surprise, the only included supplement on this Blu-ray release
is a 25 minute long featurette entitled
Hollywood Backstory: Norma Rae. This
film should have a more features-extensive release with in-depth behind the scenes and making of materials.
reasonably good quality bonus feature as it is and that features
interviews with Sally Field, Martin Ritt, and others who worked on the
and who were connected to the production. It shares a reasonable amount
background detail on what went into making the film and getting it
the first place.
interesting to learn that most major studios had taken a pass on the
before it eventually arrived at Fox. Perhaps even more fascinating is
the fact that
most of the other nominees for Best Actress the year Sally Field won
Rae were offered the part.
is actually a few minutes longer than what is advertised on the case
reason the box art lists this as being a 20 minute feature. Granted,
clips are shown. Perhaps it was noted as such because of this aspect of
documentary.) For any fan of Norma Rae,
this is certainly a special worth checking out.
Rae is an
amazing film that
demonstrates the sheer power of storytelling in film. It's an excellent
by director Martin Ritt and it has an incredible performance from Sally
which solidifies the film's reputation as a classic. For both long-time
and newcomers, I heartily recommend the film.
technical merits, Fox has provided an impressive Blu-ray transfer that
going to satisfy fans of this important masterpiece. The audio quality
is a bit
lacking and there isn't much in the supplemental department, but the
of the film and it's picture quality presentation makes this a
Neil Lumbard is a lifelong fan of cinema, and a student who aspires to make movies. He loves writing, and currently does in Texas.