Terms of Endearment: Paramount Presents (Ultra HD 4K Blu-ray)

Widow Aurora Greenway and her daughter, Emma, have a strong bond, but Emma marries teacher Flap Horton against her mother's wishes. When the marriage grows sour due to Flap's cheating, Emma eventually splits from him, returning to her mother, who is involved with a former astronaut.

November 14, 2023 8 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

Back in the mid 80’s, Terms of Endearment took home 5 Oscars, including Best Picture of the year. I did know the history of the movie, Jack Nicholson won his second Academy Award for his role as Garrett Breedlove, a retired astronaut. Director, Writer and Producer James L. Brooks (who we all owe the credit of The Simpson’s to) also took home awards for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Director. Finally, there’s Shirley MaClaine. What can be said about this woman. Though a great actress, and nominated many times for an Oscar, this was her first win and a well-deserved one it was. While I always considered this to be some sort of a “chick” movie, it was confirmed in the first hour of watching this flick. Now that’s not to say that the movie is bad, but movies have labels and sometimes it’s hard to shed the stereotype. But enough about that.

Aurora Greenway is a housewife in the suburbs of Houston, Texas. She lives and dies for her daughter, Emma (Debra Winger) who has married an Assistant Professor, Flap Horton (Jeff Daniels). It’s quite clear to say and see that Aurora and Flap don’t see eye to eye on things, but that doesn’t stop Emma and Flap from moving to Iowa…far away from mother. That’s what this story is really about…mothers and daughters. Aurora starts to have a little fling with her next door neighbor, a drunk ex-astronaut who spends most of his time in a bottle and/or hitting on women. While brash and blatantly offensive (as only Nicholson can do), he’s essentially a nice man underneath his somewhat “rough” exterior. Flap delves into his work more and more, time passes and before you know it, there’s a family at stake. As Flap pours himself into his career, this leads Emma to think that he might be having an affair. This also leads to a possible affair with John Lithgow’s character, as well. Not much else can be said, as the ending is one in which you don’t want to know what happens after reading this review.

While extremely popular, the sequel entitled The Evening Star didn’t fare nearly as well, Terms of Endearment is one of those movies in which they “got it right the first time”. Shirley MacLaine gives the performance of her career, and I was surprised to find such stars as John Lithgow, Danny DeVito and Jeff Daniels in the mix. All of the aforementioned stars are still working today and have very successful careers. While Terms of Endearment may not be one of the best movies around, I feel that it’s certainly worth a rental. How bad can it be if it won Best Picture? The treatment by Paramount has been kind, as the 4K looks and sounds great and as an added extra bonus, it features a great commentary track with James L. Brooks among others. Nicholson won his second Oscar here and there’s a reason why. He’s in rare form. Coincidentally enough, his third win for As Good As It Gets was also under the direction of Brooks. So maybe we’ll be lucky enough for them to team again.

Video: How does it look?

I’d say that this is a rather odd choice for a 4K release, but with the success of catalog titles, it’s only a matter of time before we’re treated to films like this sporting a new 4K transfer. Admittedly, I don’t think I’ve sat down and watched this since I got this on DVD (and that’s been nearly two decades ago). Suffice it to say that a lot has changed since then both in my life and in that of this film. Looking at this new 1.85:1 HEVC 4K image reminded me of why I love new transfers – this looks pretty darn good. Yes, there are still some soft spots, but the improvement in detail, color and overall accuracy really make this shine. It’s not pristine, there are other films from the era that look a bit better, but this is – far and away – the best the movie has ever looked. It’s yet another testament to technology to get these “tired old films” new life. Well done.

Audio: How does it sound?

I’m willing to bet that anyone who’s seen the film will know that it’s never been an audio powerhouse (and likely never will be). That said, Michael Gore’s score truly sounds great coming out of all channels, but if you’re a “purist” then the restored mono track is for you. Granted, the DTS HD Master Audio mix has a little more “oomph” to it, but I found the Dolby Digital mono track to be sufficient. Vocals are strong and crisp, surrounds (on the DTS version, obviously) have a few moments to shine as well. By and large, this isn’t one you get the most bang for your buck out of the audio – it does its job and does it well.

Supplements: What are the extras?

Oddly, no supplements have been included on the 4K disc, they’re all on the included Blu-ray.

Disc One (4K)

Disc Two (Blu-ray)

  • Audio Commentary – Brooks is accompanied with Penny Finkleman (Co-Producer) and Polly Platt (Production Designer). While Brooks does most of the talking, the others do offer a lot of information about the movie and shoot.
  • Filmmaker Focus – James L. Brooks does a new interview for this edition (and a staple of the Paramount Presents line), recounting the history of the film, its enduring appeal and the like. If you’ve seen one of these, you’ve seen them all. Still, it’s nice to have.

The Bottom Line

Terms of Endearment might be considered one of the weaker Best Picture winners, but it took home the trophy nonetheless. And it merited Jack Nicholson his second Academy Award (the first being for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and the next for As Good As It Gets). Paramount continues their winning streak with another solid entry into the Paramount Presents line.

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