Nobody’s Fool (Ultra HD 4K Blu-ray)

A stubborn man past his prime reflects on his life of strict independence and seeks more from himself.

December 9, 2022 8 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

There’s no doubt about it. Paul Newman epitomized “movie star” in every sense. Newman had nearly 60 films to his credit before his passing in 2008, though he wouldn’t get the accolades he rightfully deserved until later in his career. It wasn’t until Martin Scorsese’s The Color of Money, the unofficial sequel to The Hustler, that Newman would finally walk away with the Best Actor statue. In the mid 90’s Newman teamed up with director Robert Benton, the Academy Award winning director of Kramer vs. Kramer and Places in the Heart, just to name a few. Going off a script from Richard Russo, Nobody’s Fool garnered Newman a final Best Actor nomination (he lost to Tom Hanks in Forrest Gump). Though it wouldn’t be his last nomination as an actor, it would be his last for a leading role. Couple Newman’s presence with that of Bruce Willis, who remained an uncredited actor and taking a break from his rising status as an action star. Add to the mix Jessica Tandy, in her last film role and the likes of Melanie Griffith and a then burgeoning Phillip Seymour Hoffman. Sounds like a winning combination to me!

Donald “Sully” Sullivan (Paul Newman) is a stubborn man in his 60’s. He hobbles around on a busted knee that he’s sued the owner of a construction company (Bruce Willis) for, but it’ll likely never pay off. Sully spends most of his time doing odd jobs for peanuts all the while hanging out at the local bar drowning his sorrows. It’s not until his estranged son, Peter (Dylan Walsh) shows up with two kids in two that Sully starts to take a look at his life. He tries to mend the wounds that he himself caused and form a bond with his grandsons. We see the importance of him as a person, but also how integral to the town that this person truly is. There are some tangents to this, of course, but this one is about as straight-forward as they come.

It’s natural to think that in a film that doesn’t have a lot of action, no real “true” antagonist and a varied cast that it’d be easy to mess up. And in lesser hands it would be. But I’m willing to bet if you have Paul Newman’s name above the title, you’d better ensure that you do things right. They did. Nobody’s Fool is a character study if there ever was one. And if you think that you’re having a rough life, try living in upstate New York where there’s a perpetual permafrost of snow on the ground for 8 months out of the year. Newman turns in one of his better performances with this one and that’s difficult to say with a career that’s littered with them. The supporting cast does their best as well with notable performances by Phillip Seymour Hoffman (in a short, but memorable role), Jessica Tandy in her last role as well as Bruce Willis, Dylan Walsh and Melanie Griffith. This is one, for me, that managed to slip through the cracks for nearly three decades. And I’m sorry it did, but am glad to have finally caught it.

Video: How’s it look?

Having never seen the film before, I really don’t have a basis of comparison. All I can really do is call it like I see it. Then again I do that anyway. For a film that’s nearly three decades old, I was fairly impressed. There’s a lack of grain that has plagued films from the early 90’s, but that’s not present. Detail seems pretty sharp, and even Newman in his later years still manages to look good. There are also two topless scenes (one featuring Melanie Griffith), so the uptick in resolution was certainly appreciated! That said, this isn’t a very colorful movie. The outdoor scenes are all shot under a cloud-filled sky, dirty snow lines the streets and driveways making way for a much more muted color palette. Kino has shown that their “new” line of 4K movies is nothing to be taken lightly – this one managed to impress me.

Audio: How’s it sound?

We’ve got two audio tracks to choose from: a 5.1 mix as well as a 2.0. I chose the former. This isn’t a movie that’s going to blow the roof off the place. It’s a standard, dialogue-driven track that’s sure to please the viewer. Howard Shore’s delightful, playful score carries the film from beginning to end. Surrounds are essentially non-existent. I probably heard some action out of them a few times, but by and large this is a front-heavy mix. Vocals are, as expected, the center of the action and they sound just fine. While not as impressive as the video, this one manages to get the message across.

Supplements: What are the extras?

Disc One (4K)

  • Audio Commentary –  Filmmaker/Film Historian Jim Hemphill offers up some anecdotes about the film, the cast and the shoot. Again, this was my first viewing of the film, so listening to the commentary was something I was looking forward to. It’s a nice, fact-filled track that’s sure to please.

Disc Two (Blu-ray)

  • Audio Commentary –  Same as above.
  • Interview with Writer Richard Russo – Russo gives us a pretty candid look at his thought process, how he adapted the film and so forth. The film was nominated for two Academy Awards with Russo’s script for Best Adapted Screenplay being one (it lost to Eric Roth for Forrest Gump).
  • Interview with Actress Catherine Dent – Dent, who played Charlotte in the film, gives us some insight on her character.

The Bottom Line

This is proof that sometimes “less is more.” A great script compounded with a great cast makes for, you guessed it, a great movie. When you’ve got the talents of Paul Newman, Jessica Tandy, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Bruce Willis and Melanie Griffith on board – it’s hard for things to go wrong.

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