has an average rating of 7.5 on IMDb
1080p in VC-1 on a 25gb disc
DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio
are brief & in Standard Definition
– 108 minutes
This uses 19.1GB for the movie out of 22.3GB total.
Street Date: June 30th, 2009
Overall Verdict – Certainly Worth A Look
— Review written by: Danielle Byington —
The Movie Itself is Directed/Written by James Gray, with the additional writing credits of Ric Menello. The story is loosely based on the Russian writer Fyodor Dostoyevsky‘s short story, “White Nights”, that involves a main character similar to that of the film who is isolated, and defines himself as a “dreamer”.
The story revolves around Leonard (Joaquin Phoenix), who we learn is rather emotionally disturbed. The audience is first introduced to this character’s somber feelings as within the first five minutes of the film he attempts to drown himself in a bay, while on a delivery of dry cleaning for a customer of his family’s business. Leonard is rescued by witnesses to his action, and once he comes-to out of the water, he immediately flees the scene, with out even a “thank you” to the ones he pulled him out of the water.
Leonard returns to his home, a bedroom inside of his parents’ apartment, with whom he lives. Trying to make it to his room in a nonchalant fashion, Ruth (Isabella Rossellini), his mother, sees her son dripping with water, and expresses her concern, as the situation strongly suggests to her that he has attempted suicide, again. Very worried about the fact that he has attempted to kill himself again, his mother informs his father, Reuben (Moni Moshonov), about Leonard‘s dripping appearance upon his return home. Reuben does not quite confront his son strictly about his “accident” regarding falling into the bay, but informs him that a potential business partner is coming over with his family for dinner. Leonard pulls himself together to play family, and dines with the guests, who have also brought along their older daughter, Sandra (Vinessa Shaw). Reuben and Ruth begin to gloat about Leonard‘s photography skills, leading the guests to invite him to photograph their son’s Bar Mitzvah, as well as lead Sandra to inquiring more about his work.
Leonard then takes Sandra to his bedroom in his parents’ apartment, where he shows her his collection of photography. As he rambles on about the photographs, she looks up from the exhibits in her hand, and notices a framed picture of a woman by his bedside. Sandra asks who the woman is, and in an awkward, though forward manner, Leonard explains to her that the woman is his ex-fiance. Though most people would find this situation strange, Sandra pursues with more non-aggressive questions about his ex-fiance. Leonard does not hesitate to tell her that their engagement was broken when the couple was blood-tested before they wed, which proved they could not have children. Sandra does not act to least put-off by the fact that this socially awkward man keeps a picture of his ex-fiance by his bedside, but rather expresses empathy.
Having already connected with Sandra that night, Leonard is strolling home to his parents’ apartment the next day, when he hears the angry shouts of an upstairs neighbor. Before he opens the door, he sees a woman, Michelle (Gwyneth Paltrow), come down the stairs, as though to hide. She apologizes to Leonard for the noise, and explains that the yelling man is her father, and that he is a bit senile. Seeking to await a moment when her father has calmed down, she accepts Leonard‘s offer to come inside of his parents’ apartment. He gives her a small tour, and introduces her to his parents. The two realize that they are neighbors whose windows are across from each other’s apartment buildings. Later, Michelle invites Leonard to a club along with her friends, where he begins to see how mental of a train-wreck she is, as she exposes her relationship with a married man to him, and how this man is consistently letting her down.
Leonard seems to feel a stronger emotions for Michelle, probably because she is as mentally a mess as he is. However, Sandra is definitely just falling into his lap, confessing to him how she likes his differences, and wants to take care of him. It’s no so much that Leonard even knows what he wants, or “who” for that matter, but he is still bound to face further let-downs.
In closing, it seems to be the strong performances of the cast, as well as the director’s artistic intent, that convey the movie’s themes so well. The eerie nature of Phoenix‘s character portrayal does draw on your sympathy, but is still that; eerie. Having in mind the actor’s strange behavior that earned him some bad publicity earlier this year, the character’s mannerisms and Phoenix‘s basic acting performance truly strike home as a man with deep running troubles; on-screen, and off. Though, one does have to admit, Phoenix‘s performance in the film is conveyed with sincerity, whether it was reflecting his personal mind or not. Both Gwyneth Paltrow and Vinessa Shaw portray their characters in an equally empathic way, further complimenting the essence of the moderately strange love-triangle. The movie itself is certainly different from other typical romantic dramas, with nearly an absence of comic relief, though also an absence of the cookie-cutter mushiness, wearing this shroud of heavy seriousness and intrigue. I have to admit, the story alone loses its wonder in the final few minutes, and to avoid spoilers, I just want to suggest that it is a sensation of “so that’s all?“; otherwise, the movie plays originality, as mentioned before, and in the end, receives a “4 Star Rating“.
Video Quality on this release is in full 1080p using the VC-1 codec on a BD-25 (25 gigabyte, single layer Blu-ray Disc) in the 2.40:1 aspect ratio. The general look of the video on this release comes across as rather gritty and raw, thoroughly expressing the story’s content. Depending on the lighting source, the color palette, along with fleshtones, fluctuates between dull warm hues (mostly interior), and crisp ashy hues (mostly exterior). I think it is safe to say that it was the intent of the filmmaker that this palette be presented in its subdued and non-vivid style, matching the somewhat dark emotional instability of the characters. The black level is solid, and slightly more inky at times compared to other scenes; a nice example is the opening of the film, as we see the good Samaritans pulling Leonard out of the water, with only their silhouettes visible.
This movie was filmed on an Arricam ST/LT camera(s), using Cooke S4 Lenses, and though 35MM film was involved, the interior shots, as well as other lowly lit scenes, almost suggests it was recorded on a Hi-Def camera, with the weakest points of the film’s definition being presented in these scenes; not that the scenes with abundant lighting sources bare an extraordinary amount of detail either. A handful of these scenes with low lighting sources are more poor in presentation than others, displaying evidence of compression, as well as the use of an Edge Enhancement filter. An example of these issues is present in the scene in which Sandra comes to the apartment to pick-up Leonard for a dinner date, and as she offers him the opportunity to decline in her lack of self-confidence, the shots switching back and forth between the actors are borderline-fuzzy, more so in those of Vinessa Shaw.
Though I did compare the weak presence of definition in lowly lit scenes to that of the use of a Hi-Def camera, the use of 35MM film is apparent, as in a few moments of the movie’s run time, very faint interframe deformation (vertical flickering) artifacts are visible, along with a few instances here and there that possess a sporadic subtle red splash, usually in the center of the frame, that flashes by on occasion. A moderate dose of film grain is present, which does add further flavor to the story’s content, though generally takes away significant clarity found in blu-ray releases of other films this young. Whether some of the mentioned issues were an intentional style or not, they do actually compliment the feel of the movie, however, as a High Definition specimen, the video quality for this release just earns itself a “3.5 Star Rating“.
Audio Quality on this release is presented in DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio. The first couple of minutes of the film really say a lot with simple silence; that may seem like an odd compliment regarding the audio quality of a release, but in this first minute, your sense of hearing is anticipating hints from the score or foley. Finally, the silence is broken with Leonard‘s suicidal plunge into the bay, offering a very subtle pan of the puncture of deep water from below the surface. This is sound presented with artistic intent, with no accompaniment from the score, or voices of extras, giving the audience their own opportunity to collect their opinion of this man’s action, and to begin highlighting the isolation that the character feels. With an immediate presentation of an intelligent audio mix, it sets the expectation for the rest of the film’s duration, which is suitably met, and does the film’s content justice without being over-the-top. Use of the rear channels is often present with the score, and foley tends to shine brightly, tapping back and forth between the left and right rear channels. The most noticeable moment of bass presence is the film’s scene involving Leonard attending a club with Michelle, as the hip-hop beat puts its rhythm in the subwoofer; however, this is only an example, and honestly quite poor considering it is the audio track’s strongest moment of subwoofer use.
Dialogue is conveyed very clearly through primarily the front center channel, though there is an interesting mix involving the dialogue found in chapter 13. In this scene, Leonard and Michelle are on the roof of the apartment building, and standing between the sheltering of the brick walls, Leonard‘s raised voice echoes in the small space, with the source of his voice conveyed from the front center channel, and the echoes heard from the left and right front channels. It is basically a nice touch, however, there seems to be an issue with the end of a few of his words, as his voice pierces from the center, and the reverb in the left and right is cut short a few times, making the effect highly unnatural. Though, overall, the audio quality for this release earns itself a sturdy “4 Star Rating“, doing a great, and mostly interesting job presenting the content of this somber drama.
Bonus Materials on this release are presented in mostly Standard Definition, with the exception of trailers and a photo gallery, presented in High Definition, using Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo.
- “Behind the Scenes” (7 minutes) consists of the director, and the rest of the cast, discussing the movie’s story and themes.
- “Deleted Scenes” (9 minutes) includes 3 scenes, with a description displayed before each.
- “Photo Gallery” (HD) includes 30+ photographs.
- “HDNet: A Look at ‘Two Lovers’” (4.5 minutes) involves clips of the production members’ input and thoughts on the film.
- “Also from Magnolia Home Entertainment” (9 minutes, HD) includes 4 trailers; only the second trailer uses Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo, the rest use Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround.
Blu-ray Disc packaging:
NOTE: The full-sized 1920×1080 files are in a .PNG file format and uncompressed. Bare with the slow loading times, keep in mind these files are at least 1MB (1 megabyte) in size each.