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Stanley & Iris
Stanley & Iris is a drama from acclaimed filmmaker Martin Ritt (Norma Rae). Known for making humanitarian films about social issues, Ritt tackles the issue of illiteracy with this production. With over 30 million Americans being unable to read or write, the issue is as relevant today as it was when the film was released. The film is produced by Alex Winitsky (Swing Shift, The Lady Vanishes) and Arlene Sellers (Circle of Friends, The Seven-Per-Cent Solution).
The story begins with the chance meeting of Stanley Cox (Robert De Niro) and Iris King (Jane Fonda). After being robbed, Iris tries to go after the thief who stole her belongings and money. Stanley steps in and helps her stay safe but the thief gets way with her belongings. A chance encounter becomes much more once the pair begin to fall for each other romantically.
Stanley is a cook at a restaurant (though he struggles to hold on to any job). He tries to navigate the world while dealing with his illiteracy. He dreams of being able to read or write but doesn't know how to and he feels as though it is holding him back. Iris King (Jane Fonda) is a smart, independent woman with a teenage daughter. She struggles with her family life but doesn't understand the pain Stanley feels from his illiteracy. Initially scared of rejection by Iris, Stanley nonetheless reaches out to her as a friend with the simple request: "Teach me to read."
The film becomes an exploration of a man burdened by his illiteracy and it's affects on him while exploring the possibilities and the importance of education to one's life and happiness. Director Ritt makes the film a great love letter to education and the significance of it in one's life. This social drama is a moving and heartfelt exploration of an issue rarely tackled in cinema. The romantic subplot between Stanley and Iris is also a sentimental and deeply human aspect bringing the film to greater emotional heights.
The production design by Joel Schiller (The Muppet Movie, Lenny) is impressive with good locations and design work. The film feels authentic and a huge part of this is because of his quality efforts. The cinematography by Donald McAlpine (Moulin Rouge!, Romeo and Juliet) impresses as well. The film is naturally beautiful with good lighting, color, and photography. This film maintains the sense of a beautiful, brisk day and the warmth of the outdoors. The photography is certainly impressive and adds to the film's success.
The costume designs by Theoni V. Aldredge (Ghostbusters, Moonstruck) also add much to the overall production. The costumes certainly feel believable for the characters and the setting. It makes the storytelling more effective throughout.
The music score composed by John Williams (Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark, E.T.) is an emotionally felt and sonically rich one. This is a beautiful score filled with sincerity and warmth. Williams wisely makes the score a calm, serene, and beautiful ode to the common man. The score music helps the film's emotional center feel more alive and meaningful.
Loosely based on a book written by author Pat Barker, the screenplay was written by the husband-wife writing duo Harriet Frank Jr. and Irving Ravetch (Hud, Hombre, Norma Rae). The screenplay largely focuses on the character's emotional journeys. The duo, who frequently collaborated with director Ritt, emphasize the romance between Stanley and Iris as well as the plight of Stanley as he learns how to read and write.
Directed by Martin Ritt (The Front, The Sound and the Fury, The Spy Who Came in From the Cold), Stanley and Iris is a heartwarming social drama and romance. The film has a delicate sensibility with stellar performances by leads Robert De Niro and Jane Fonda. The film is emotionally rich and rewarding. The style of the filmmaking impresses and enhances the character's journeys. As the final film by Ritt, Stanley & Iris is a fitting final film by a legendary filmmaker who dedicated their career to telling stories of ordinary people, of social inequality, and of important societal issues.
Stanley & Iris arrives on Blu-ray from Twilight Time with an impressive looking 1080p MPEG-4 AVC encoded presentation in the original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1 widescreen. The film has an impressive visual style with quality cinematography. This is a quality transfer of the film. This naturally filmic presentation is in good shape. Fans of the film will certainly be pleased with the quality of the presentation.
The film is presented in 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio. The film has solid fidelity given the age of the materials. Dialogue is easy to understand. The score by legendary composer John Williams sounds terrific on this release.
Subtitles are provided in English SDH (for the deaf and hard of hearing).
Please Note: This is a Region Free Blu-ray release.
This release includes a booklet featuring an essay by Julie Kirgo.
On disc supplements include:
Audio Commentary by film historians Nick Redman and Julie Kirgo
Isolated Score Track in DTS-HD Master Audio
Original Theatrical Trailer
Stanley & Iris is the final film by director Martin Ritt. It's an emotionally rewarding story about illiteracy while also being a moving romance between the two lead characters. It truly is a love letter to the common man (and woman). The film features stunning performances by Robert De Niro and Jane Fonda.
Twilight Time has released an impressive Blu-ray with a strong technical presentation. This is a release worth owning for fans of the film.
Neil Lumbard is a lifelong fan of cinema. He aspires to make movies and has written two screenplays on spec. He loves writing, and currently does in Texas.