Introducing the Dwights
Directed By: Cherie Nowlan
Starring: Brenda Blethyn, Khan Chittenden, Emma Booth, Richard Wilson, Frankie J. Holden
Brenda Blethyn plays Jean, the overbearing matriarch of the dysfunctional Dwight family. Jean, a divorced mother living with her two sons, is an English stand-up comedienne who relocated to Australia when she married the boys' musician father, John (Holden). Tim (Chittenden), the oldest son, drives a moving van during the day, and shuttles Jean to gigs in the same van to perform her bawdy act at various bottom of the barrel clubs at night. Jean likes to play up her mini-celebrity status and frequently refers to how much she has sacrificed in her show business career in order to raise Tim and his younger brother, Mark (Wilson), who has a mental disability as a result of an accident at childbirth. When the painfully shy, virginal Tim starts dating the much worldlier Jill (Booth), she initially is confused by his awkwardness, mistaking it for a lack of interest in her. Once Jill meets Jean, however, the source of all of Tim's neuroses becomes clear. Tim strives to find a way to make peace between Jill and his demanding high-maintenance mother without destroying his family in the process.
Originally released in its native Australia and most of the English speaking world under the not so great title of Clubland, the film was saddled with the even less representative title of Introducing the Dwights by its American distributor. The film is a mostly successful mix of family drama and comedy, with most of the laughs deriving from the picaresque cast of characters, especially the delusional Jean and her ex-husband John, a couple of show-business has-beens who keep plugging away at their comedy and music careers no matter how far down the ladder they slip. The overall arc of the story is perhaps a bit too familiar, but the low-end Australian show business trappings and an unusually frank depiction of the sexual relationship between Tim and Jill help it stand out from the pack of disapproving mother comedies.
The role of Jean practically requires Brenda Blethyn to chew any scenery with which she comes into contact, and she proves to be more than capable of the task. Chittenden's performance as the shy but determined Tim anchors the movie by providing a sympathetic character with whom the audience can identify stuck between the occasionally unreasonable Jill and the completely unreasonable Jean. Richard Wilson gives an impressive performance as the mentally impaired brother, but the screenplay requires him to do something funny in almost every scene which starts to make Mark feel more like a caricature than a real person.
The video transfer fills the entire 16:9 enhanced frame. Grain levels vary from scene to scene with the dark scenes generally being the grainiest. The compression does not always reproduce the grain in a natural way, but this is not bothersome from a reasonable viewing distance. Shadow detail is generally pretty good as is detail in general. A higher bitrate presentation would have solved most of the minor problems I outlined above. I did not review the 4:3 transfer on the flip side of this double-sided single-layered DVD-10
The English Dolby Digital 5.1 track is not especially ambitious with a strong focus on the front channels and dialog firmly anchored in the center. The surrounds are generally used for light ambient support, particularly in the nightclub scenes. Occasional music passages remind the viewer that the film is in stereo. There are no alternate language dubs.
There are no proper extras on the disc.
When the disc is first spun up, the following skippable promotional spots play, all with Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo sound:
- In the Land of Women DVD Trailer (4:3 video - :32)
- December Boys Theatrical Trailer (4:3 letterbox video - 2:30)
- P.S. I Love You (4:3 letterbox video – 2:32)
- Flatout: Ultimate Carnage video game trailer (4:3 letterbox video - 1:46)
- In the Valley of Elah Theatrical Trailer (4:3 letterbox video - 2:30)
The double-sided single-layered disc is packaged in a standard Amaray-style case with no inserts. The cover is a variation on the US poster art which makes the film look like more of a light-hearted happy-go-lucky comedy than it really is.
Introducing the Dwights is a quirky if unexceptional Australian family comedy with a by-design over-the-top performance from Brenda Blethyn. It is presented on a double-sided single-layered DVD-10 disc with a pretty good 16:9 enhanced widescreen transfer on one side and a reformatted 4:3 transfer on the other. The sound mix is adequate if unambitious, and there are no extras whatsoever.