The Unbelievable Truth
Starz / Anchor Bay
Review by Adam Tyner | posted June 19, 2001
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Audry Hugo is the sort of angsty teen featured in far too many movies and television shows. Exceptionally brilliant and even accepted to Harvard, the one and only school to which she applied, Audry looks at the end of her adolescence as the last gasp of the world, fully expecting an atom bomb to drop on her modest home in Long Island any day now. The depressed, highly individualistic Audry is in sharp contrast to her boyfriend, an eager go-getter chomping at the bit to become a cog in a corporate machine, utterly devoted to money and to the concept of a girlfriend, though not to Audry herself. Audry's father Vic has a clear idea of what her future should be; he's the sort of person who is willing to let his daughter do whatever she wants in life so long as it's precisely what he has in mind. Vic, who owns an auto shop, grudgingly takes aboard Josh, a quiet ex-con with a questionable past who is to automobiles and wrenches what Da Vinci was to canvas and paint. Audry almost immediately finds herself attracted to Josh, and vice versa, despite murmerings of his having violently murdered the family of her close friend Pearl. Audry's father convinces her to start modeling to help pay for her community college education, but when some of her work turns out to be more provocative than he anticipated, Vic becomes enraged. Josh very much wants to reveal the secrets he and Pearl have been carrying about the tragic events of years past, but neither is seemingly able to successfully do so, winding up with an even further removed Josh.

If it doesn't sound as if there's a coherent plot in "The Unbelievable Truth", it's because there really isn't one. This not a film about the unfolding of a particular story. The focus isn't on plot, but character archetypes, ideas, and story conventions. My feelings on "The Unbelievable Truth" weren't cemented with a single viewing. I might come back and update this review once I've had a chance to see the film another couple of times and let it digest. It's a film that's very difficult to a comedy where everyone's a straight man. The acting's lacking in a lot of ways, and the film frequently seems to drag its shoes in the sand, seemingly interminable. There's not much of a plot -- just enough of a story to put these characters together and to provide Hartley with his commentary. I'm almost at a loss as to describe my thoughts here. I found the film as a whole to be interesting but not very entertaining, and there wasn't any one component that jumped out as vastly superior to the remaining elements. The whole is greater than its parts. I think what I might be trying to say is that I liked "The Unbelievable Truth", but I don't realize it quite yet.

Video: "The Unbelievable Truth" was shot for a microscopic $75,000, so expectations for a razor-sharp, glossy image are unrealistic. There is a fair amount of grain due to the lower-grade film stock used, and the inconsistent lighting results in some thick shadows and unusual contrast. The color palette is muted but doesn't seem wildly out of place in a film of this nature. Anything that might possibly be construed as negative about the image can be attributed to its microbudget origins. The transfer on Anchor Bay's end is likely about as close as realistically possible to its theatrical presentations; next to nothing in the way of dust and speckles, no flaws or noticeable wear on the print, and none of the hideous halos resulting from edge enhancement. "The Unbelievable Truth" has an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and is, yes, enhanced for widescreen televisions.

Audio: The mono track on "The Unbelievable Truth" sounds quite nice. Recording limitations occasionally show up, but Anchor Bay can't be blamed for low and infrequent rattlings in the background. The score mostly consists of rhythmic guitar noodlings, which I kind of dug. I noticed a flicker of distortion during one of Vic's tantrums, but by and large, the most important aspect of this dialogue-driven movie is presented well, considering the minimal time and money involved in its original recording.

Supplements: An interview with director/writer/co-producer/editor/you-name-it Hal Hartley is the featured extra. Presented in anamorphic 4x3 to avoid unnecessary stretching on 16x9 televisions, the interview looks and sounds somewhat rough. He rambles on, leaving this interview nearly impossible to follow, and although the menu option lists this "Conversation With Hal Hartley" as running fifteen minutes, right around half of that time is spent showing clips from the feature. I had a hard time making it through this chat, and anyone hoping for any revelations or amusing comments about the film will likely come out disappointed. Much more coherent and easier to sit through is the theatrical trailer, presented in anamorphic widescreen.

Conclusion: I wouldn't enthusiastically recommend "The Unbelievable Truth", but at the same time, I can't shake the feeling that I'd genuinely love this movie on my third viewing. I don't have the faintest idea why. "The Unbelivable Truth" is unconventional without feeling as if it's trying too hard to be different, offering a unique view into characters and generic movie conventions. I realize this disc will appeal to a limited audience, and even though I don't have strong feelings either way yet, I find myself very much wanting to recommend it to others. If you see it, a purchase would probably be your best bet to give yourself the opportunity to watch it a few times without your eyes drifting towards other titles at your rental shop of choice. Recommended.

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