Singles (Blu-ray)

April 7, 2015 9 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

The September 1992 issue of SPIN magazine featured a black and white cover with Chris Cornell, lead singer of the group Soundgarden. Below, in bold red letters, read “The Year of Grunge.” I’d heard of grunge music, of course. I’d purchased the Nirvana CD and had become an instant fan. However I was always a bit tardy to the party, so it hit me, right then and there, what “grunge” music really was.  A few weeks later Cameron Crowe’s Singles was released in theaters and it capitalized on the Seattle music scene and featured a number of these artists in their home town. Movie-goers already knew of Cameron Crowe, the Writer/Director who spent a year in high school doing research for his work on Fast Times at Ridgemont High and who had helmed the now cult classic Say Anything just a few years before. Crowe would go onto make a much more personal film, Almost Famous, that detailed some of his exploits of his earlier years. Still, in the movie industry, timing is everything and Singles certainly struck while the iron was hot.

The film focuses on the lives of a quartet of loosely-intertwined friends. We meet Linda (Kyra Sedgwick), a woman on the lookout for Mr. Right only to constantly strike out. She’s just had her heart broken. As fate would have it, Steve (Campbell Scott), takes an interest in her but Linda, being fragile and suspicious of the opposite sex, shuns his advances. Janet (Bridget Fonda), a naive barista can’t seem to get enough of Cliff (Matt Dillon), though Cliff openly tells her he’s seeing other women. Cliff’s also the front man of Citizen Dick whose popularity in Europe far outshines their local allure. And, in a nutshell, that’s it. The film focuses on the ins and outs and complications of a new relationship. Janet ponders a breast augmentation, though the plastic surgeon (Bill Pullman) advises against it. Steve is convinced he has the cure for Seattle’s mass transit woes with a super train and so forth. And through it all music…lovely music.

More time has passed (for me) between the theatrical release of this film and now than when it originally came out. That’s to say, I was 19 when the film came out and now 23 years have passed since then. A lot has changed and that’s the message in the film. Singles is about finding yourself and, set against the backdrop of early 90’s Seattle, the message is ultimately timeless. I suppose this will always be labeled as a “grunge” film and that’s fine. Eddie Vedder, lead singer of Pearl Jam (probably the only grunge-era band to have a career after 1996), has a part and we see other familiar faces and bands like Alice in Chains, Mother Love Bone and Mudhoney (conspicuously absent is Nirvana). As I said before, this isn’t Crowe’s best film, he’d go onto more commercial and critical success with future films like Jerry McGuire, Almost Famous and Vanilla Sky, even taking home an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay for Almost Famous. Still, it’s amazing to me how personal this movie is to so many people, so sit back, relax and enjoy the brief moment when flannel ruled the world.

Video: How’s it look?

The big draw for this Blu-ray was that, well that it was actually coming out on the format, but also a new transfer was created for this release. Warner’s catalog titles are a bit hit and miss, but Crowe was directly involved with this one and it shows. While not the epitome of perfection, Singles does look noticeably better than its DVD counterpart. Colors seem warmed up, detail has been improved and the film seems to have a more sleek quality to it. I’d watched this a few weeks ago on DVD just so I’d have that transfer fresh in my mind and I can say that this Blu-ray does improve. The 1.85:1 AVC HD image seems to have  few bits of DNR here and there, but it’s nothing that was overdone.  The palette will always be a bit, well, grungy (I couldn’t resist), but contrast and hues seem to really improve the viewing experience. One thing I have to comment on is technology – were computer monitors really that small?

Audio: How’s it sound?

If ever a movie epitomized sound, it’s got to be a musically-themed film, right?  Yes. And no.  Don’t let the moniker of DTS HD Master Audio throw you – this is a fairly heavy 2.0 mix that more than fits the bill. Vocals are localized and strong, there seems to be a dynamic range that simply wasn’t present on the DVD. I’d have liked a little more action via a full 5.1 mix, but I’m certainly not complaining. Paul Westerberg, who supervised the soundtrack, has a few moments to shine with his “Dyslexic Heart” plays through the front channels. A few of the concert scenes seem a bit muddled, but I don’t really want to nitpick. It’s a nice and improved soundtrack which is more than I could ask for.

Supplements: What are the extras?

The previous DVD contained only the theatrical trailer and this Blu-ray has a slew of “new” extras (I use quotes around the word new since some of these have been available on Crowe’s web site for a few years now). Still, it’s nice to have them in one place, so let’s get started.

  • Deleted Scenes – The most robust supplement is the 50+ minutes of deleted scenes and extended scenes. These were fun to watch, but I can see why the segments were cut. I’d have liked to see a bit more of Bill Pullman’s character, but ultimately the movie was about the younger generation and not a hapless physician. Still, it’s nice to have these included.
  • Gag Reel – Nothing of substance here, some shenanigans on the set.
  • Live Performance – Soundgarden performs “Birth Ritual.”
  • Live Performance – Alice in Chains performs “It Ain’t Like That Anymore.”
  • Live Performance – Alice in Chains “Would?.”
  • Theatrical Trailer – If you want to see the difference a widescreen Blu-ray presentation makes, check this out for comparison sake.

The Bottom Line

Singles is a literal timestamp of a bygone era. We know the music of the Seattle scene and its lasting influence, but Crowe has a way of diving into the heart of the matter and not only made a film about music, but about relationships in general. Yes, it’s a bit dated, but the messages are just as relevant today as they were then. I watch a film like Annie Hall and it speaks to me as well. This might not be Crowe’s best film, but I’m willing to bet that for many – it’s the guiltiest of pleasures.

Disc Scores