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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Things You Can Tell Just By Looking At Her
Things You Can Tell Just By Looking At Her
MGM
List Price: Unknown [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Aaron Beierle | posted July 9, 2001 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

Glenn Close. Holly Hunter. Cameron Diaz. Ally McBeal (er, I mean Calista Flockheart.). Holly Hunter. Amy Breneman. A virtual who's who of female stars. And yet, "Things You Can Tell Just By Looking At Her" never went to a theater near you. MGM, reportedly unsure of how to market the picture, sent it first to Showtime and then off to a video and DVD release. Although not a picture without some minor problems, I'm still unsure how a studio could think that a picture with this kind of cast wouldn't play well with audiences in a theatrical release.

The film shows five separate stories about women characters, providing a particularly fine showcase for the acting talents of several of its stars. The first of the stories is "Dr. Elaine", where Dr. Elaine Keener is visited by a fortune teller (Flockheart) who reveals what she's been thinking; that she's successful, but alone and loneliness has been creeping up on her. The second story deals with a bank manager (Holly Hunter), who is pregnant from her married boyfriend (Gregory Hines), who wants her to get an abortion. A third story revolves around a children's book writer who becomes attracted to the dwarf that has moved in next door. The final vignette offer a police officer (Amy Breneman) and her confident, but blind sister (Cameron Diaz).

"Things You Can Tell" is slightly slow going for some of the movie as the film becomes a little bit talky and directionless at times, but it's almost always brought back quickly by the stellar performances. In particular, Hunter, Diaz and Close are quite excellent, delivering their best recent work. I also liked how the stories occasionally crossed into one another, doing a believable and interesting job of doing so.

And before you go, "this shouldn't have went to Showtime, it should have went to Lifetime", it's really not one of those melodramatic pictures that are what that cable network has become known for. This is a picture that really shows genuine, realistic emotions for these situations without being weepy. Flockheart is also a suprise, as although I've never cared for "Ally McBeal", her performance here is genuinely touching and engaging. There's a scene where she is talking to her terminally ill lover (Valeria Golino) that is heartbreaking as she gradually breaks into tears. Also look for fantastic cinematography by Emmanuel Lubezki ("Walk In The Clouds", "Great Expectations"), who takes a very natural approach to filming, often using a handheld technique to bring us right into the scene.

Again, I find it silly that the studio didn't think this picture could have worked in theaters - at least a small, art-house release would have brought in some success due to the stars and built up word-of-mouth. Hopefully though, fans of the actresses will find the movie as it arrives finally on video - although MGM has not done much at all with the DVD release.



The DVD

VIDEO: "Things You Can Tell" is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen by MGM. You would think that all of the elements are in place for a nice looking picture, wouldn't you? It's a movie that's not even half a year old, never went to theaters and it's in anamorphic widescreen. Well, it doesn't work out here as MGM offers image quality that simply looks only average. Sharpness and detail are okay; the picture often looks decently well-defined and crisp, if not completely sharp. A scene or two on occasion throughout the movie looks noticably on the soft side, but not terribly so.

The biggest question is, how does a movie this new have quite as many print flaws? Although not a massive problem, I noticed small to mild marks, speckles, dirt and a scratch or two at various points throughout the movie. Some minor edge enhancement is also visible, as are a couple of tiny traces of pixelation. Some scenes also displayed some light grain. Colors looked fairly subdued throughout the picture, but appeared accurate, as did flesh tones. Although not the worst effort that I've seen from MGM, I'd like to see them do a really fantastic job on a title someday, because I haven't seen one from them in several months.

SOUND: "Things You Can Tell" is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1, but this is one of those movies where a 2.0 presentation would have likely been sufficent. Almost completely dialogue-driven with little in the way of even subtle, ambient detail, the only two elements are dialogue and the occasional touch of music. There is no surround use, but audio quality seemed fine, as dialogue sounded natural and clean.

MENUS:: The menus are about as basic as it gets, simply re-using the front cover.

EXTRAS: Trailer.

Final Thoughts: "Things You Can Tell Just By Looking At Her" was not treated right by MGM in terms of not giving it a theatrical release, nor does it recieve the best treatment for DVD. Still, fans of any of the actresses might find this an enjoyable film to rent.

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