WHAT'S IT ALL ABOUT?
Well, here's an oddityâ€”a dark comedy about love and Barry Manilow-type soft rock, with Kathy Bates in the lead role. Unconditional Love is the kind of movie that you watch with a mounting sense of bewilderment, and some horror, but it still manages at times to put a crazy smile on your face. Suffice it to say, although this movie has some faults, it's been unjustly relegated to the direct-to-DVD bin. I've seen many worse films get a theatrical run.
Grace Beasley (Bates) is living a life of quiet satisfaction with her husband of 25 years, Max (Dan Aykroyd). One morning, a strange confluence of events takes place: First, Max decides he wants a divorce, and second, Grace comes this close to winning tickets to a Christmas performance by her all-time favorite musical performer, Victor Fox (Jonathan Pryce, terrifically bedecked in full Manilow regalia). Just as her personal life is turned upside down, we also learn that Fox will never make his intended concert, because he has become the latest victim of Chicago's Crossbow Killer. Now, the story becomes truly odd, as we're introduced to Grace's dwarf stepdaughter Maudey (Meredith Eaton), and Grace decides to travel to Fox's home town in England to attend his funeral. What she discovers in Englandâ€”with the help of Fox's secret lover Dirk (Rupert Everett)â€”changes her life, as well as the lives of those around her.
As a dark comedy, Unconditional Love can be occasionally effective. There are a few moments in this film that had me laughing quite hysterically. Merely the sight of Jonathan Pryce shuffle-dancing through clouds over the opening credits loads the film with promise. And Meredith Eaton as Maudey steals every scene she's in. But in the end, you can't escape the fact that Bates has difficulty carrying this movie and in fact, doesn't seem to really understand the type of film she's in. Her performance is more in tune with "chick flick," and indeed, so is Rupert Everett's performance. And in my book, chick flick and dark comedy just don't mix.
Still, Unconditional Love gets points for its goals. The sly humor of its makers shines through at many junctures. This was a better film than I thought it would be. It's by no means an unqualified success, but it's worth your time and rental dollars. Especially if you're a Barry Manilow or Julie Andrews fan.
HOW'S IT LOOK?
New Line presents Unconditional Love in a decent anamoprhic-widescreen transfer of the film's original 2.35:1 aspect ratio. This is a strong effort, offering detail that reaches into backgrounds. The print itself is clean and crisp. Colors are accurate but never seemed eye-popping, perhaps accurate to the palette. I noticed edge halos in several spots. Overall, though, this is a fine transfer.
HOW'S IT SOUND?
The disc's Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track is quite decent. Although this film is generally quiet, focusing more on dialog than sound effects, you do get a fairly enveloping experiences from its audio presentation. I liked the way the music infuses the entire room, particularly during the fantasy sequences.
WHAT ELSE IS THERE?
First up is a 2-minute Deleted Scene that should have been left in the film. It actually provides key motivation for the change in relationship between Grace and Dirk, which, in the finished film, occurs abruptly. This scene would have smoothed that out.
You also get the film's Theatrical Trailer.
WHAT'S LEFT TO SAY?
Give Unconditional Love a rent, but don't expect it to knock your socks off. It's got faults, but it also contains some big laughs. The DVD offers above-average sound and image, but the extras are minimal.