At the very beginning of
Be Good, Smile Pretty we learn that 20,000 Americans lost their
fathers in the Vietnam War, a somber statistic that haunts this documentary. A
co-production of the Orphans of War Foundation and Kansas City Public
Television, Be Good, Smile Pretty is a heart-rendering journey of
Tracy Droz Tragos, a woman who lost a father she never knew in
surfing the Internet one day,
did a search for her father's name and uncovered a detailed account of his death
at the Mekong Delta. Realizing that she wanted to discover more about her
embarked on a journey of
discovery to find out more about the man who was Lt. Donald Glenn Droz, how he
died and, most importantly, how he lived.
Be Good, Smile Pretty
makes use of home movies, photographs, letters, and hours of
newly-taped footage to accompany
on her journey. We see numerous interviews with her
mother, uncle, grandmother, cousins, and other family members as she learns more
about her father. In one particular emotionally brutal segment, Tracy asks her
cousin to describe what it was like having to go up to Kansas City and identify
her father's body.
takes her on a tour throughout the
. She goes to
to speak with Senator
(and current Presidential candidate) John Kerry, who served in
good friends with Lt. Droz. She goes to the
and meets his room- and
, she meets up with her father's
friends and buddies from
finally encounteres Peter Upton, the man who wrote the article she found on the Internet
which started her search. Each person she meets adds another piece to the
tapestry of her father's life, and when she meets Upton the story of her
father's death is told at last, utilizing first person accounts, radio traffic
from the ambush, and stock footage from Vietnam. It's a powerful, devastating
scene that had me riveted from start to finish.
Be Good, Smile
Pretty is about Tracy's
search, but it's also about coming to terms with grief, loss, and mourning. A
segment of the film deals with
Tracy's discussing grief and
mourning with her mother in a rather charged debate; it's clear that their
emotions, while overlapping in their commonality, are coming from different
angles. Her mother lost someone she knew and loved;
grew up with a glaring absence in her
life. In the end, Be Good, Smile Pretty is not so much about death but
learning how to go on with life. It's not an easy program to watch, but
it remains a riveting piece of work.
Be Good, Smile Pretty is
presented in widescreen aspect ratio of 1.78:1, and is anamorphically enhanced
for your widescreen-viewing affection. The videotaped presentation is extremely
pleasant, with rich vibrant colors and strong contrasts. Sharpness levels seem a
tad soft at times, and there are some occasions of video noise, but the transfer
is generally clean and well-represented.
The audio is presented in monaural Dolby Digital 2.0, and
is quite appropriately handled for this documentary. The dialog is
presented clearly and reasonably without distortion, hiss, or hollow elements.
The orchestrations are subtle and effective without overpowering the dialog.
This is a quiet, tender movie and the audio presentation is not only quite
suitable but very tasteful.
Extended Interviews is divided into two sections: the first, "The
Children", features over twenty minutes of interviews featuring six people
who lost their fathers in Vietnam. The second,
"Vietnam Veterans", contains
nearly sixteen minutes of interviews with veterans of that conflict.
Photo Gallery contains fourteen photographs of Don Droz in
Vietnam, the Droz family, and Tracy Droz Tragos. Filmmaker
Statement is a short text piece in which writer/director/producer Tracy
Tragos explains why she set out on this journey, and what she hopes to
accomplish with this project. Crew Biographies contains
background information on the director, executive producer, co-producer,
director of photography, and editor. Resource Guide contains
links and contact information for the Associates of Vietnam Veterans of America,
The Doughy Center, Gold Star Wives, Sons and Daughters in Touch, Swift Boat
Sailors Association, Swords to Plowshares, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund,
and a variety of other organizations. About Docudrama provides
some short text passages about the company that released this DVD.
Catalog/Trailers contains a list of DVDs that Docudrama has
released, as well as trailers for some of these releases. Finally
Credits contains the DVD production credits.
Be Good, Smile Pretty is an affecting
feature that creates a powerful meditation on real grief and loss that few films
ever come close to eliciting. Although the feature runs less than an hour, the
emotional reaction that it evokes is palpable and very real. If you've ever
experienced the pain of losing a loved one, many of the reactions experienced
here are familiar. Tracey Droz Tragos's experience adds another dimension to the
proceedings: she struggles to learn about the father she never knew in the
shadow of a large family that knew and loved him, and had to lose him at such a
young age. I recommend this DVD wholeheartedly; the film is remarkably powerful
and heartbreaking, but it leads to a message of healing and the ability to move
forward in life.