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Other // Unrated // October 21, 2014
List Price: $24.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Tyler Foster | posted November 27, 2014 | E-mail the Author
In recent years, some have tried to proclaim the death of cinematic romance, including the enduring staple, the romantic comedy. Although the genre certainly had a heyday in the '90s, starting approximately with Sleepless in Seattle and continuing well into the next decade, recent rom-com efforts have slid toward humor that inadvertently demeans women, and less comedic efforts are basically non-existent. That said, romances are as good as ever, if one knows where to look. A prime example from last year was the wonderful Enough Said, a film that succeeded not because of its mid-movie twist, but because it examined its protagonists, considering what they want out of the relationship and why the couple is so compatible. Film romance seems dead because movies continue to look at concepts and caricatures rather than people, losing out on the requisite sweetness that makes a good romance so charming.

Satellite, which hit screens in 2006 but is only arriving on DVD in 2014, is one of those films. The film, written and directed by Jeff Winner (who describes it as as a romantic fairy tale, whatever that means), hangs itself with cliche after cliche, as well as a desperate desire to cling to a plot structure that adds nothing, falsifying his film's central romance. Kevin (Karl Geary) and Ro (Stephanie Szostak) meet for the first time in a bar, but Ro reveals they've been in each other's lives for longer than he realizes, explaining that she's not only seen him on her route into the city, but even followed him once, hoping he would spot her and chat her up. They spend the next three days together, ultimately agreeing to be more impulsive, promising to follow through on whatever crazy dare the other person comes up with. The pact sends them on a wild and crazy bohemian adventure with incredible, unexpected consequences.

Well, that's the idea, anyway, but Satellite follows a tired playbook that mistakes being spontaneous for being profound. Few things could be more predictable -- not to mention cloyingly impractical -- as Kevin showing up at Ro's work just a few days later and convincing her to just walk out with him, traveling across the country to see his sister Suzanne (Christina Kirk) and her husband Jim (Larry Fessenden). They both quit their jobs, and she dares him to buy a motorcycle, which they ride around the country, committing a string of petty shoplifting crimes to help pay their way. It's supposed to be charming, but the fact that these characters are throwing the lives they know away to be together only emphasizes the need to understand where each one is coming from. On the night they first meet, Kevin suddenly insists, "I want to know everything there is to know about you," but the conversations that follow (including one about levitating a thousand feet above the earth that gives the film its title) are resoundingly uninformative, made up of intentionally random and trivial questions that feel so self-consciously "witty" that it grates on the nerves.

As one might guess, throwing caution to the wind and living life by stealing causes stress between Kevin and Ro, although very little of it is actually derived from their lifestyle. Instead, Winner simply has Ro become paranoid and crazy. When they're on the train to Kevin's sister's place, he picks up a magazine with Britney Spears on the cover, and mentions casually that he's fascinated by her. "It's a blonde thing," he says, actually making his comment more confusing. The next night, Ro has a nightmare where Kevin ignores her, directing his attention to a blonde woman instead. Nearly every interaction between Ro and another woman for the rest of the movie drips with her jealousy, from someone who worked in a coffee shop Kevin used to frequent to a waitress at a restaurant in a scene we're not shown. Ro's jealousy is one-note and empty, turning it into a sexist stereotype. The fact that Kevin later cheats on her with one of the blonde girls doesn't validate her paranoia, either, because it has no basis in reason, it only makes Kevin seem like a huge asshole.

Before Satellite has even passed the halfway point, any interest in seeing how this love story turns out has already dried up. These aren't people, they're a concept, punctuated by tropes that make both of them seem obnoxious. Winner goes for broke as the film builds to a conclusion, not just throwing in Kevin's infidelity, but also stacking on a near-death scare on the motorcycle (a moment that makes no sense, considering Ro is shown wearing a helmet), and the usual teary break-up and make-up scenes, but all of his efforts only serve to push the viewer farther from the protgonists. He tops off this creation with an ending that brings his framing device into focus, one that seems possible near the middle of the film but serves as perhaps the most twisted, outrageous moral lesson ever committed to film. At least the title is fitting: Satellite should probably be fired into space.

Satellite is an MOD release, arriving with stylish, minimal cover art featuring the two characters in front of a colorful title treatment, with a single photo adorning the back. The artwork feels as if it were printed by a standard inkjet printer, and the disc is a DVD-R. There is no insert inside the cheap Amaray case.

The Video and Audio
It can be said upfront that the appearance of Satellite has more to do with the film's age -- it was actually released back in 2006. That said, the 1.66:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer offered here is not pretty. It has the look one should expect from a film shot nearly a decade ago on the first generation of consumer digital video cameras, with blown-out whites, a distracting softness that will have you rubbing your eyes even in extreme close-ups, edges are rife with aliasing, and the entire film is plagued with the unmistakable appearance of interlaced video. Color bleed and chroma noise is present. The only issue not out in any significant force is banding. I'm sure there were VHS tapes of studio movies that have looked better than this, not to mention the film adds insult to injury with a photography montage in the middle of the film that's significantly higher resolution than the video. It's watchable, for sure, but in the same way a 240p YouTube video is watchable. Sound is a less disappointing but still no-frills Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo track, which adequately presents the music and dialogue without much fanfare or stylish separation. No subtitles or captions of any kind are included.

The Extras
Two extras are included on the disc, the first being an audio commentary by writer / director Jeff Winner. Winner expounds on the process of casting, writing, and production, including shooting shortly before the invention of digital video, and what he hoped to achieve with the film. Unfortunately, even from the beginning, there are some long pauses between comments, where Winner falls silent. Very much on the dry side.

This is accompanied by an interview with the producers (8:15), Fessenden and Brian Devine, which mainly covers Fessenden's relationship with Winner, the casting of Szostak, and how Fessenden assisted in the film's editing process. If you liked the film, I can't think of any reason to skip it, but it's nothing special. An original theatrical trailer is also included.

Satellite piles on device after device to get us invested in Kevin and Ro's relationship -- everything except a real understanding of who Kevin and Ro are and what they want out of their lives or out of each other. It's a jumbled, dissatisfying mess, one that would've been better left on the shelf. Skip it.

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