Final / Ten Tiny Love Stories Review
FinalBill (Denis Leary with uncharacteristically short hair) unexpectedly wakes up in a hospital bed unable to remember what happened to him. He can vaguely remember an accident which seems to have got him into hospital for a while. The concussion has triggered a severe bout of paranoiac delusions, as he’s now positive he’s been cryogenically revived and is about to be executed within the next 24 hours. Ann (Hope Davis) the psychiatrist assigned to him is hopeful that his amnesia will only be temporary but her presence seems to titillate him a little too much and aggravate his psychotic phases.
Though Denis Leary has proven to be a good actor when it comes to bit parts, this was the first time he was cast in the lead. Whether you find his acting any good probably depends on how much you like his stand-up performances, as the character depicted here seems to be the same psychotic, fast-talking East-coaster. Opposite him, Hope Davis does a good enough job at playing a cold and slightly haughty shrink – though if the roles had been reversed, it would have probably given a slightly edgier film (or a complete disaster). The film’s script is generally good but too little of the plot is revealed in the first act making the start of it rather dull in comparison to the rest of it – with the relatively long running time, one can’t help feeling that if some scenes had ended on the cutting room floor, the film’s rhythm would have been greatly enhanced. The cinematography is pretty low-key and unobtrusive though the editing does add a bit more zest to the proceedings; the general feel and look is not excessively dull but neither does it really help the film along, remaining slightly pedestrian throughout the film.
It remains that Final works quite well as a relatively intimate piece of indie film-making – as it doesn’t aim too high, it generally achieves what it sets out to do though some may find the director gave Leary too long a leash for their liking and Leary probably does remain the crucial factor in the loving or hating of this movie.
Ten Tiny Love Stories: Ten different women from varying backgrounds tell us about one of their loves or encounters. Yes, indeed that’s a rather flimsy basis for a film and if you’re thinking it would make for a rather dull film, you’d be absolutely right. Though some of the writing and the performances are quite strong, the whole fails to gel due to its disjointed nature.
Auster and Wang’s Smoke achieved the perfect balance of plotting, monologues and storytelling but in this case, we’re left with only the storytelling which makes the film rather dull aesthetically as nothing happens on screen except the narrator moving about whilst telling the stories. The mise-en-scène is rather artificial, in that each actress tells the story straight to the camera (à la Ike Singer in Annie Hall) as if there was no-one else there; this would get quite voyeuristic if it were a documentary, but seems even stranger in a film for some reason.
The script itself is rather patchy – some of the stories are far more interesting than others and despite most of the actresses giving in very good performances, you’re left wondering whether the material was really strong enough to warrant a film. Given the microscopic budget, I suppose the studio suits weren’t too stressed about it breaking even and were secretly hoping it may be the next Blair Witch Project. It does undoubtedly provide a brave break from the norm but sadly fails to be anything more than a patchy effort that expects an awful lot from the audience.
This is the second disc of a boxset of 4 films (the first disc was reviewed here) – each disc containing 2 films.
The image:The image is in the correct aspect ratio for both films but neither gets an anamorphic transfer. Though the bitrate is quite low due to the length of both films, the overall image quality is pretty much acceptable. The print quality for both features is pretty much pristine and the transfer seems to be good enough considering the overall bitrate (as the whole of TTLS features very little on screen movement, this probably helps). The image quality of Total is globally good though the colours seem rather washed out though that could have been an artistic choice.
The sound:Both films are heavily dialogue driven and get a stereo mix (though in the case of TTLS, a mono mix would have been more than sufficient). There’s little wrong with these mixes and both give us a clear and clean soundtrack to listen to.
The menus and the extras:
The menus are rather basic but musical and no extra whatsoever is included.
Conclusions:Thankfully the second disc in the boxset is much better than the first disc – although the films will not appeal to the mainstream they have enough charm to make them worth at least one viewing. Of course, they’re not going to be classics in years to come but at the same time are probably more thoughtful and intelligent than much of the drivel that is churned out day-in day-out by most big studios.
Though this boxset is supposed to be available for sale, I haven't yet found an online retailer stocking it so maybe they are working on setting right the issue on the first disc.