HTF REVIEW: Faithful

Michael Elliott

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Faithful


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Studio: New Line
Year: 1996
Rated: R
Film Length: 91 minutes
Aspect Ratio: Anamorphic Widescreen (1.85:1)
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 , Dolby Surround
Subtitles: English, Spanish
Retail Price: $19.95





Jack (Ryan O’Neil) is a lying, cheating husband who is having an affair with his 24-year-old secretary while his wife Margaret (Cher) sits at home living in a state of depression wondering what has gone wrong with her life. Margaret has all the money in the world but this isn’t enough because she missing the touch of her husband plus she’s too scared to leave him even though she knows he’s cheating on her. With their twentieth anniversary here Margaret decides to make a change.

Before any change can take place, Jack (Chazz Palminteri), a Mafia hit man enters the house at gunpoint and tells the wife that she’s going to die. Jack ties Margaret to a chair and tells her that he’s waiting for the phone to ring twice, which is the signal from her husband that he’s got an alibi and that the killing can take place. While waiting for the phone call Jack and Margaret begin talking and Jack is shocked to learn that the change the wife was going to do was kill herself. When Jack hears this he realizes that he has saved her life and the two also begin to realize that they have more in common than Margaret ever did with her husband.

Faithful was released to limited theaters back in 1996 and died a quick death without much buzz around the film. The box office take was small and there wasn’t too much critical talk about the film but to me this is a very underrated art film with some very deep drama and a twisted sense of black humor, which sadly tried to be sold to the public as some sort of lighthearted comedy. This is the type of film that’s about nothing at all. There’s not too much going on throughout the film except for the appeal of its cast and the dialogue being spoken by them.

When I said the film was about nothing that’s the honest truth because there isn’t a single thing that happens in the film. We are given a setup but a minute later we know there’s not going to be anything bad that happens. We can see it in the characters and we can see the silly setup and while we’re expecting something funny to happen the screenplay by Palminteri takes a different approach and goes for some heavy handled drama, which seems out of place yet the actors are so convincing that we are brought deeper into the situation. This story was originally a stage play by Palminteri and while it doesn’t translate too well to the screen there’s still plenty to enjoy here.

Cher has always been a reliable actress and she does a wonderful job here in a demanding role that takes her from a suicidal case to an overly powerful and vengeful wife seeking answers in her life. The suicide part of the performance is done without words and we can just look at her eyes and see how she’s feeling and know exactly why she’s feeling it. At the end of the film Cher confronts her cheating husband and while this could have gone over the top, Cher’s performance is so compelling that everything comes off believable and makes up from the heavy drama earlier in the film. Ryan O’Neil has never been an actor I’ve overly enjoyed but he’s also very nice here. Chazz Palminteri on the other hand is one of my favorite character actors who has proven himself in Robert DeNiro’s A Bronx Tale as well as Woody Allen’s Bullets Over Broadway. His thick New York accent and mobster like personality is very charming and his dramatic turn here comes off wonderfully well.

I think Faithful has been forgotten because it’s not really a film with any sort of payoff. There’s never any suspense that someone is going to get killed and there’s not enough laughs to keep a mainstream audience interested. Instead we are given a dialogue driven film with two depressed people and an adulterous husband who tries to have his wife killed. I think the film could have used a bit more comedy and the stuff with Palminteri’s shrink never really works. This is the type of film that when it’s over the viewer will probably ask themselves what was the point of the film. There isn’t a point to the movie. Instead, we’re given wonderful dialogue and three wonderful performances making the situation more interesting than it should be.


VIDEO---The film is shown widescreen (1.85:1) and is enhanced for 16x9 TVs. With the exception of a few opening scenes the entire film takes place in a house with the only lighting coming from open windows so there’s not too much color to show off here. The transfer hasn’t the slightest bit of dirt or any scratches and there’s only a few scenes of minor edge enhancement. Most of the EE takes place during the outdoor scenes at the start of the film. Flesh tones look very accurate throughout the film and it’s obvious that very little makeup was used on the actors so the pale look on their faces looks all the better. Black levels are deep throughout, although there’s a few soft spots in an outdoors scenes at the end of the movie. None of this is too noticeable unless you’re really looking for it so in the end we’ve got another very good transfer from New Line, which says a lot about them considering this isn’t going to be a big title for them.

AUDIO---We get the original Dolby Stereo Surround track as well as a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix. For a dialogue driven film I was surprised that the 5.1 mix is handled so well. The dialogue packs a nice punch and is crystal clear throughout. There’s never any moments where the track is hard to hear and all the dialogue is mixed perfectly with the score as well as several catchy tunes that pop up throughout the film. The songs sound incredibly well and there’s also some nice use of the Surrounds in a few sound effects (Champaign bottle, gun shots). For such a quiet and dialogue driven film I was very shocked at how well everything was used making this one of the better mixes from New Line, although you shouldn't be expecting anything action packed like some of the more recent films.

EXTRAS---The theatrical trailer is the only extra.

OVERALL---I doubt too many people has seen this film or even heard of it, which is a shame, although it’s not hard to understand this. The film doesn’t have much in it but the cast and screenplay bring it to life and make it worth watching. New Line offers another very good disc as long as you don’t mind the lack of any real extras. The transfer is very nice and the 5.1 track packs a nice little punch for such a quiet film.


Release Date: June 1, 2004
 

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