DVD Review HTF REVIEW: A Separate Peace

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Scott Kimball, Feb 7, 2005.

  1. Scott Kimball

    Scott Kimball Screenwriter

    May 8, 2000
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    A Separate Peace

    Studio: Paramount

    Year: 2004

    Rated: R

    Length: 92 Minutes

    Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1

    Audio: English Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo

    Closed Captioned

    Special Features: None

    Suggested Retail Price: $24.99, USD

    Release Date: February 8, 2005

    How does one take a 200+ page novel and turn it into a 90 minute film? One doesn’t - at least not while keeping the themes entirely intact. Peter Yates (Bullitt, Murphy’s War, etc.) directed this uninspired film adaptation of John Knowles’ classic coming of age story - this, the second unsuccessful film adaptation of this story. This 2004 film version was made for cable and aired on Showtime.

    This is a story about teens, seniors, at a New England prep school in the 1940’s, each of whom is sweating the draft. Some choose to enlist, some don’t - each has his own reasons for his choice. The story most closely follows two roommates. Finney (Toby Moore) is the outgoing, carefree athlete. Gene (J. Barton) is his more uptight friend.

    Finney and Gene have an odd relationship, with little trust and an abundance of jealousy. The two seem to be polar opposites. The problem with this film adaptation is that the introduction of the characters is so lacking that we can’t understand the characters motivations or understand their actions. The entire first act is disjointed. The scenes are all too brief, and separated by time, allowing for little natural flow to the character’s development. This is problematic in a character driven piece.

    By the time we begin to understand the motivations of the key players, we are well on the way to the tragic event that defines the story. The event, though purposely vague in the novel as well (so I hear... I’ve never read the book), loses its power without a solid understanding of the characters involved.

    The film is excellently cast with talented unknowns, who all perform to near perfection... if only they had the screenplay to back them up.

    The Transfer
    The video is brought to you in its televised aspect ratio of 1.33:1. The image is sharp and displays good contrast. Black levels are solid, with good detail in the shadows. Colors are mostly true and accurate, and well saturated. The only negatives to the video are occasional halos around high contrast transitions, and occasional moire artifacts in highly detailed areas. These problems are minor and unobtrusive.

    The audio is offered up in Dolby Digital Stereo. Frequency response is good, and channel separation is pleasing enough. Dialog is consistently clean and clear. While there are no obvious defects in the audio portion of the transfer, the stereo soundtrack is adequate but unremarkable.

    Special Features
    There are no special features.

    Final Thoughts
    I’ve never read the novel that this film is based on, but having read about the novel, I have a strong feeling that there are things of substance missing from this adaptation. It’s too bad... there is a good story here - but it is watered down, thinned by a screenplay that pays short shrift to the themes of the original story. The film is bolstered by strong performances, and the DVD has an acceptable transfer of the source material.
  2. Aaron Silverman

    Aaron Silverman Executive Producer

    Jan 22, 1999
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    Aaron Silverman
    I only read the book recently -- it's actually pretty short. Making a good movie out of it would be a tough challenge, since the whole point of the book is that you're seeing things through Gene's mind's eye.

    Nice review.
  3. Tim_P_76

    Tim_P_76 Second Unit

    Aug 8, 2001
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    I was actually quite moved by this adaption. The acting was fantastic and it looked great when I saw it on Showtime. I would greatly encourage anyone who is interested in coming of age or true friendship stories to seek this out to rent or buy.

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