Studio: New Line
Film Length: 122 minutes
Aspect Ratio: Anamorphic Widescreen (2.35:1)
Audio: DD 5.1 Surround, DD Stereo Surround
Director P.J. Hogan had American hits with My Best Friend’s Wedding and Muriel’s Wedding but his 2002 comedy Unconditional Love failed to even get a release in America, although it features a well known cast including Kathy Bates, Rupert Everett, Dan Aykroyd, Lynn Redgrave and Jonathon Pryce.
Grace Beasley (Kathy Bates) is your typical housewife who lives a pretty typical life with her husband Max (Dan Aykroyd). Grace thinks she’s in a perfect married but she is thrown into a state of shock when Max announces that he wants a divorce. With nothing left to loose Grace decides to attend a concert by Victor Fox (Jonathon Pryce) a pop singer who she has listened to for over two decades. As low as her life can get there’s always Victor’s music to pull her out of depression and get her on her way.
The show is eventually canceled for some strange reason and the heartbroken Grace only gets more bad news when she discovers that Victor has been murdered. With both men in her life gone Grace decides to do something brave and travel to England so that she can attend the funeral of her hero. Once in England she eventually ends up at Victor’s house where she meets a mean spirited man named Dirk (Rupert Everett) who just happened to be Victor’s lover. Dirk is in a state of depression over the death of his lover and also the fact that he is a secret to the many women who thought Victor was a straight ladies man. Both Grace and Dirk on all hard times so they both decide to stand up and do something brave. Together they will travel back to America and capture the man who killed Victor.
I can’t tell you how much I wanted to enjoy Unconditional Love because there’s a lot of good stuff here yet in the end there was simply too much for such a simple film. After viewing the movie I understood why it was never released in America because I really don’t know what category to throw this film in. The first half is depression due to Grace being kicked around and mistreated by everyone. When we get to England the film takes a very ugly turn with the locals mistreating Grace and even worse is the setup of Dirk. He insults and curses Grace, which left a bad taste in my mouth. Then the film turns to a fantasy before switching gears yet again into a chase for a killer.
The performances are a mixed bag as well but I’d blame the screenplay and direction on this. Kathy Bates is very good as usual and she brings a life to Grace that not too many other actresses could have done. She’s charming, sweet and funny, which is something the film certainly needed. Rupert Everett on the other hand is a mixed bag of treats. When we first meet him he’s a very ugly and mean creature and the actor can’t pull this off very well. He goes way over the top in all of this, which really hurts the film. Dan Aykroyd is also very good, although he isn’t given much to do.
I’m really not sure what the director was trying to do with this movie. It appears as if there are around five different scripts rolled into one here. The first hour shows both of the characters depressed and being abused by those around them. Then we get a sweet fantasy dance sequence between Grace and Dirk with the ghost of Victor. Then we’ve got a serial killer to track down who just happens to have his own sad story to tell. Then we’ve got a political movement about how gays are treated in the world. Then to cap it all off we’ve got an aggravated dwarf who just happens to be Grace’s daughter in law. I’m not a fan of dwarf humor and what’s here certainly isn’t funny but annoying.
Unconditional Love is a very strange movie that really doesn’t know what it wants to be. If the director and screenwriter doesn’t know how to handle the film then I don’t see how they should expect the viewer to. The film contains a wonderful little soundtrack of classic songs but the rest of the film is far from a classic.
VIDEO---The movie is shown widescreen (2.35:1) and is enhanced for 16x9 TVs. Outside some minor EE the transfer here is pretty good. The film has all sorts of colors from the green fields of England to the dark streets of Chicago and everything comes off well. There are a few of the darker scenes in England that appear a bit too soft but other than this I was happy with the transfer. The skin tones are very nice and natural look.
AUDIO---The sound is Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround and is very nice considering the type of film this is. This is mostly dialogue driven and the track does justice to this. The dialogue is clear and upfront throughout and the Surrounds get a nice workout when various songs are played.
EXTRAS---We get a small deleted scene with Grace attending the funeral plus a theatrical trailer.
OVERALL---If you’re a fan of Bates or Rupert you might want to check this film out but I certainly wouldn’t purchase this as a blind buy. This is a very strange film that takes on way too many subjects but can’t deliver on any of them. New Line has done a nice job in the video and audio department.
Release Date: October 7, 2003