Director James L. Brooks has always had an eye for great material (his TV work producing shows like "Mary Tyler Moore" and "The Simpsons") or taken material that presents an otherwise ordinary story and re-vitalizes it with great characters, dialogue and situations. The film begins introducing us to the mother/daughter combo of Aurora(Shirley McLaine) and Emma(Debra Winger) and takes us quickly from childhood to when Emma is getting married to Flap Horton(Jeff Daniels), much to her mother's dissaproval.
The two move onwards to another city where they believe they're getting out from under the watchful eye of Aurora, but things still begin to fall apart. Emma's family expands more than she can deal with and the finances begin to run thin. Not to mention, Flip is cheating on her and Emma strikes up her own relationship with a banker (John Lithgow), and then finds out that she's become very ill.
On the home front, the most entertaining piece of the story takes place as new neighbor and former astronaut Garrett Breedlove (Jack Nicholson) begins to wear down her irritability. It's a great performance in a long line of great performances from the actor, making a character who sees past the defences of Aurora's personality.
Yes, the film takes a quick turn from comedy to soap-opera-ish drama, but thankfully we care enough about the characters and the entire film doesn't have Emma and Flip screaming at one another (like Rob Reiner's "Story Of Us"). The film also thankfully relies on the characters to engage the audience about the situation instead of using various forms of manipulation to get us interested.
It's a very, very good from from Brooks who thankfully also has the support of a top-notch cast.
VIDEO: "Terms Of Endearment" is presented quite well by Paramount - a studio who I've noticed is improving lately with their releases. The first moments of "Endearment" is shot soft to the point of thinking that a little layer of fog has rolled in during some of the outdoor shots, but that's still well-displayed here. The rest of the movie looks sharp and well-defined, if still a tiny bit soft in spots.
The combination of respectable sharpness and detail along with few flaws really makes for an enjoyable viewing experience. Pixelation is thankfully absent, as is (with just a few tiny exceptions) edge enhancement. Some small print flaws do appear occasionally throughout the movie, but I didn't find them annoying, nor did I find the amount to be more than I'd expected from a movie of this age.
Colors were generally natural, no more, no less. There are occasional scenes with brighter colors, though, that look excellent, such as a scene of Houston walking around in her flower garden. I was kind of suprised to see that the cinematographer here was Andrzej Bartkowiak, who is now directing films like "Romeo Must Die" and doing cinematography for pictures like "Lethal Weapon 4" and "Dante's Peak". It's interesting to see the contrast between the realistic nature of how a story such as this one is filmed and the ultra-stylized, crisp work he's done on recent pictures. But, back to the story at hand, Paramount has done a fine job with "Terms of Endearment" and fans will be pleased at how solid the image looks throughout.
SOUND: Like many of their older releases, Paramount has offered a new Dolby Digital 5.1 presentation. While that isn't going to turn "Endearment" into "U-571", it still does certainly bring improvements to the listening experience, mainly in opening up the score. The score sounds crisp and full, and occasionally fills the listening space very nicely. It's really the only element that recieves much expansion here, as "Terms" isn't a film that really has much else going on besides the dialogue.
MENUS:: Although menus aren't animated, I did enjoy the classy, elegant backgrounds.
Commentary: James L. Brooks, co-producer Penny Finkelman Cox and production designer Polly Platt come together to provide a fine discussion of "Terms of Endearment" on this track, remembering stories about what went on during the filming and providing good information about the details of making the picture. Most of it is an engaging and entertaining track as the three seem genuinely energetic about discussing the picture - although there are a few times where it seems as if the group is too into the movie as there are a few gaps of silence located throughout the track. Still, worth a listen for fans of the film.
Also: The trailer.
Final Thoughts: "Terms" isn't without some problems, but they are mostly overcome by great performances and dialogue as well as fine direction by Brooks. The DVD provides good picture/audio quality as well as one fine extra in the commentary. Recommended.