Better Living Through Chemistry (Blu-ray)

May 14, 2014 5 Min Read

Review by: Matt Malouf

Plot: What’s it about?

Sam Rockwell plays Doug Varney, a small-town pharmacist who lives a simple, structured life, but not without a few problems. His wife Kara (Michelle Monaghan) wants him to be more of a man and his son is something of a recluse and does as he please, such as covering his windows with black tape (among other things). When the delivery guy at Doug’s office fails to make the daily deliveries, Doug takes it upon himself to do so. On one of his stops, he meets Elizabeth Roberts (Olivia Wilde), she is married and lives in a huge house, but is unfulfilled with her life. Outside of marrying rich, she hasn’t done much with herself. They begin having an affair and soon, Doug discoveries the things that he’s been missing in his life and learns to finally lighten up and enjoy himself. The film has a constant running narration by Jane Fonda (she also makes a cameo) and is a lot of fun, at least for a while. I enjoyed much of the first half of this film, but eventually it started to lose me. I think it’s because it grows more conventional as it goes along. Sam Rockwell has always been a great actor and does a fine job here, but the film plays it too safe when it should be letting loose. Olivia Wilde also does great work and she’s as lovely as ever even if her role gets smaller as the film progresses.

Running at a relatively brief 90 minutes or so, Better Living Through Chemistry doesn’t overstay its welcome and does more wrong than right. It’s the kind of movie that you might catch on cable and not feel too bad about sitting through. I wouldn’t advise purchasing it, but I do think a rental isn’t out of the question. It’s a nice smaller scale film that might’ve made more of an impression had it gone a less predictable route and had a bit more of an edge to it. As it stands, it does just enough right to not feel like a total loss. There really aren’t any surprises here. Ray Liotta shows up as Elizabeth’s husband and there’s a DEA agent investing the pharmacy, but the outcome becomes pretty clear fairly early on. The movie’s best scenes are between Doug and Elizabeth and I wish they were given more focus here. So, if you don’t have sky high expectations, Chemistry offers a decent experience that doesn’t ask too much of the viewer. I just wish it asked more of itself.

Video: How’s it look?

The film isn’t especially flashy, but the transfer still satisfies. Colors are nice and bright and well saturated. I couldn’t detect any softness. The small-town setting is certainly pleasing to the eyes and the transfer displays nice background shots as well. Flesh tones were even and smooth and the print was nice and clean. No less should be expected from such a recent film and it delivers the goods. The image is AVC encoded with a 2.40:1 ratio.

Audio: How’s it sound?

We get a DTS HD track, but don’t expect it to change your world. It shouldn’t. That doesn’t make it bad by any means. Vocals were clear and strong and while this is a mostly front-loaded track, the rear channels kicked in when needed. There are a few instances where the film’s soundtrack kicked in and those moments made an impression. This serves the film well, nothing more, nothing less.

Supplements: What are the extras?

All we get here is a digital copy code and some previews. Worth mentioning is that the menu can be a bit confusing. Things aren’t labeled, they’re simply given icons. Most will be able to figure it out, but it can be tricky at first and I wish actual labels were used instead of icons. 

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