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Nobody's Fool (4K Ultra HD)
2022 saw a small resurgence of things Paul Newman, in the sense that Ethan Hawke's superb documentary The Last Movie Stars appeared on HBO Max. The documentary was inspired by a large volume of documents that Newman started and then destroyed a large chunk of as part of work for an autobiography, and Hawke used his friends to voice the notes that led to the abandoned book (George Clooney voiced Newman, Laura Linney voiced Joanne Woodward, etc.). Then as it turned out a memoir was released, titled "The Extraordinary Life of An Ordinary Man," later in 2022. There is of course the gradual release and re-release of his movies to UHD, such as this one.
Nobody's Fool was based on the Richard Russo novel that Robert Benton (Kramer vs. Kramer) adapted into a screenplay which he also directed. Newman plays Sully, an older construction worker who seems to bristle at most collaborations whether he works against (but takes off-book jobs for) construction foreman Carl (Bruce Willis, Die Hard), or renting a room from Miss Beryl (Jessica Tandy, Driving Miss Daisy), he wants to live his life on his terms. Things seem to change for him at Christmas when his son (Dylan Walsh, Nip/Tuck) comes to town and brings his children/Sully's grandchildren with him, and he makes subtle changes to help him and those around him.
I saw this transformation of sorts with my Dad albeit on a much smaller scale. Not in the sense that I'm going to take a indulgent moment of therapy within a home video review, but when you get to a certain age, you seem to take these profound steps of love in a matter of fact fashion. Whether you want to be a better grandfather or father, a more loving or caring person, there's a sense of wanting to do those things, while maintaining your exterior of whatever that may be. In Newman's Sully, it's a guy who helps his friends and is loyal to them, but leaves others alone. That's the part that has a bit of resonance to me now.
With the profound part out of the way, it's really fun to see Nobody's Fool again after a few years. There are a lot of very good people here (a chunk are no longer with us), and you get the sense you could very well be watching a play when it comes to a movie like this. In the sense that the ensemble is small and knows everyone's ins and outs, and each is comfortable of the roles they portray. Folks like Philip Bosco, Margo Martindale and Sid Akers aren't on the screen for that long, but each makes a memorable impression because they inhabit the characters so well and enjoy the dialogue they get to say.
It's hard to single anyone out in the film since they're wonderful; I guess it's easy to point to Newman because he's the lead and all (and he bounces lines that come immediately after a laugh that are even better than the joke), and it's a cop-out to say but really everyone with a speaking part is a joy to watch onscreen. Nobody's Fool is one of the films you turn on and leave on because it's comfort food; people you've seen before elsewhere and like, all saying words that sound so effortless when delivered by them. 1994 had some bangers for movies (go Google what came out that year), and in another year perhaps it would get more love than it did, but Nobody's Fool holds up with the best of them.The UHD:
Kino notes an HD remaster from a 4K scan of the original negative from Paramount for Nobody's Fool, and the Dolby Vision presentation is good. Film grain is present during viewing and the image lacks notable haloing or smearing. Image detail could use a bit of work but in personal recollection only it wasn't really there to be demo material when it first aired. Colors and flesh tones are accurate and nothing is oversaturated, it looks okay.The Sound:
Dolby 5.1 surround and a lossless two-channel track, neither of which are going to blow the doors off. The score sounds fine, the dialogue is consistent, but save from the scene when the cop fires his gun or when a snow blower is being used, you're not going to get anything dynamic; everything is in front of you and that's how it's going to be.The Extras:
Film historian Jim Hemphill provides a commentary for the film that gives you historical information and context, but understandably lacks in terms of production anecdotes and such. Locations are recalled, biographical information on the cast and crew are touched upon, the reception of the film when it was released and of the cast (by the town) during filming are flirted with as well, and things like the film's "R" rating and an unclaimed note of Roger Deakins being the initial cinematographer are hit upon also. It's a nice track to listen to. Russo also provides an interview (22:39) where he talks about the origins of the book and of the two that followed it, along with some of the production stuff since he was apparently there and noting the out of sequence shoot being a bit of a hamper on the cast (this was noted in Hemphill's commentary also). Catherine Dent (who plays Walsh's wife in the film) has an interview as well (16:10) which she discusses her first film role, and working with Newman and any great takeaways she got from it.Final Thoughts:
It's not that Nobody's Fool is a great movie, just that a lot of other things that make it fun to watch just happen to be there and you're likely not going to stop watching it; familiar cast, good dialogue, fun moments, it really is a movie you can leave on if you see it on TV. It's not a reinvention, but it's comfort food with an underlying story you'll appreciate over time. Technically the disc is fine and the extras are a nice thought, but give it a try first and you may wind up enjoying it.