Plot: What’s it about?
Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward would seem to be inspired casting for a romantic comedy. The problem with “A New Kind Of Love” is that it’s neither romantic nor very funny. The plot, such as it is, revolves around a floundering newspaper reporter (Newman, in an admittedly well-suited role) sent to Paris after an unfortunate affair with his boss’s wife. A fashion buyer (Woodward) is also on her way to Paris on a business trip. The two meet up on the plane and naturally hate each other. Or so it seems. At this point, the films seems promising if predictable, and all the elements appear to be in place for a nice, light-hearted film with a lot of feel-good, memorable moments. But despite my best efforts, I couldn’t stay interested in this film for more than twenty minutes at a stretch. The only thing that kept me coming back to it, in fact, was the belief that no film could have this much going for it and still play so badly. It’s not the fault of the actors themselves, nor even necessarily of the story in and of itself. The way it’s presented is just so schmaltzy and silly that we quickly lose interest. The film simply gets an A+ for potential and an F for execution.
I really wanted to like this movie. I’d read a few negative comments on the Internet Movie Database about the film and counted myself proudly amongst those that usually deviate from popular opinion. In this case, though, I’m forced to half-heartedly agree. Newman and Woodward do as well as can be expected with what they’re handed here. It’s just too bad that what could have been a movie in the vein of “Pillow Talk” and one that had elements here and there that made “Irma La Douce” so charming is reduced so completely to the cheap little throwaway flick that those other films could so easily have been with less competent direction. To be sure, there isn’t much of a story (at least not in a form that hadn’t already been done a thousand times before a thousand times better), but then, there really doesn’t have to be when a film is made well. There are just far too many segues into goofiness and absurdity to carry what desperately wants to be a more grounded picture. One scene, for instance, has Woodward’s character in a drunken state hearing an imaginary voice speaking to her. I’ve been drunk many times. This is not a side-effect. The intention was clearly to be whimsical and irreverent, but it comes across as ridiculous instead.
Particularly problematic is the film’s vain attempt to create chemistry between the two leads. I never bought their romance for a second, and far too much time is spent on dramatic irony to allow the viewer to get any real grasp on what these two people actually feel for one another. It’s almost as if the comedy aspects of the film take over at some point and the emotional undercurrents are themselves washed away by the sheer weight of what quickly becomes a one-joke, situation comedy picture. The side stories (one of which involves a coworker of Woodward’s Samantha hopelessly in love with her oblivious boss) are of no more consequence than the main attraction and gave me the distinct impression that precious screen time was wasted on trivial nonsense when it could have been better used to make the central story more convincing. The climax of the film is especially weak. Just when I had almost forgotten to dislike the film, the ending was ruined by the last in an unfortunately long series of truly mortifying dream sequences that drip with so much cheese and failed attempts at sardonic wit that they destroy any attempt at enjoying this film based on its good qualities alone. Disappointing.
Video: How does it look?
If the film is a would-be memorable piece of ultimately ineffectual film-making, this DVD’s technical qualities follow suit in fine style. There’s nothing particularly wrong with this transfer that can’t be explained away by the film’s age and relative obscurity, but I was simply left wanting more from the presentation. Colors leap off the screen here and, while that’s typically a good thing, it’s overdone in a few scenes to the point of massive bleeding that is as distracting as any VHS tape I’ve ever seen. Also, the contrast, while well-done for the most part, seems a bit too jarring at times, taking one a bit to far out of the movie with a slightly-too-digital feel to the picture. Edge enhancement, while present, is kept relatively under control, though print debris does rear its ugly head throughout much of the film. All in all, this isn’t a disappointing transfer. It’s just not as crisp and clean as it could have been. Then again, I don’t think expectations are going to be anywhere near the stratosphere on this one, and fans of the film should be fine with what’s presented here. I suppose, as with the film, I was simply expecting a bit more. English subtitles are available.
Audio: How does it sound?
On the audio side, we’re given a perfectly serviceable Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono track that, for the most part, does justice to the onscreen action. I did find the track to be a bit plugged up and, at times, somewhat overbearing (especially for a Mono track). This isn’t necessarily any fault of the audio presentation itself, however, as some of the scenes depicted in this film simply have obtrusive sound. I can’t really describe this to anyone who hasn’t watched the film, but those who have get the idea, I’m sure. The dialogue, however, stays relatively even and discernible throughout, and I wasn’t ever drawn out of the film – at least not by the audio track. Again, this is a fairly typical and unremarkable effort, presenting the film as I’m sure it should sound without adding anything above and beyond to sweeten the pot. It’s not a travesty by any means, though certainly nothing to write home about.
Supplements: What are the extras?
There are no extras on this DVD. Given the below average quality of every aspect of this release, I’d venture to say that if mediocrity were renamed, shrink-wrapped, and sold for $19.95 at your local retailer, “A New Kind Of Love” would be the designation of choice.