Picking Up the Pieces

January 28, 2012 8 Min Read

Review by: Fusion3600

Plot: What’s it about?

Tex (Woody Allen) has been putting up with his cheating wife, Candy (Sharon Stone) for a long time, but even he has his limits. Sure, Tex is a pushover in most cases, but this time he has been pushed too far, as his wife is about to discover. So when he catches her with another man, he soon loses his temper and kills her in the heat of the moment. Now he has to somehow hide the murder and since he is a butcher by trade, he slices her into pieces and decides to bury her in the remote areas of the desert. But it seems like he didn’t bury all the parts deep enough, as blind woman trips over an exposed hand. To her amazement, the woman can now see and she thinks the hand is responsible. So she tells the locals and word spreads of the miracle working hand, which many believe once belonged to a virgin, but Tex knows better than that. The town’s mayor (Cheech Marin) then creates a massive tourist and media blitz, as thousands of people converge on the town to see this hand. All the while, Tex needs to recover it and dispose of it, before the sheriff (Kiefer Sutherland) is able to gain possession and use it as evidence in Candy’s disappearance.

I’m always interested in darker comedies, especially ones with loaded casts, so Picking Up The Pieces was a film I was looking forward to. The cast sports such names as Woody Allen, Sharon Stone, David Schwimmer, Cheech Marin, Kiefer Sutherland, and more, so I was expecting some unique characters at the least. As it turns out, this movie does have a lot of memorable characters, but also loads of laughs and a terrific storyline. The basic premise is solid enough, but this movie excels in the details and is filled with nuances. The characters have all sorts of quirks and mannerisms, even the ones with less screen time and that adds a lot of depth to the film. The writing here is superb and while not all the jokes work, most of them do and the movie supplies more than enough laughs. As you might be able to tell from the synopsis, Picking Up The Pieces is darker than most comedies, but not so dark that the humor is buried. But a lot of potentially offensive material is present, which I loved although I know some folks will be shocked by. If you’re looking for a comedy with an edge, this movie is more than worth a look.

An ensemble cast is used in this film to effective ends, which means the screen time is well balanced and no one really emerges as the true star. I think Woody Allen ends up stealing this film however, as he is superb and brings his character to life very well. Allen plays both sides of this role well, which is vital to the character, since we have to see his lighter side as well as darker. I do think Allen is more effective when he plays up the darker side, but he handles the character on both sides with no problems. You can also see Allen in such films as Annie Hall, Bananas, Small Time Crooks, Manhattan, and Love and Death. I also like the work of Cheech Marin (Tin Cup, >From Dusk ‘Til Dawn) and Maria Grazia Cucinotta (The World Is Not Enough), both of whom turn in terrific performances in the film. The cast also includes Sharon Stone (Sliver, Basic Instinct), Kiefer Sutherland (The Lost Boys, Freeway), Eddie Griffin (Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo), David Schwimmer (Tv’s Friends), Andy Dick (In The Army Now, The Cable Guy), Fran Drescher (Tv’s The Nanny, This Is Spinal Tap), and Elliot Gould (American History X). This film was directed by Alfonso Arau, who also helmed Like Water For Chocolate and A Walk In The Clouds, among other efforts.

Video: How does it look?

Picking Up The Pieces is presented in a 2.00:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. I saw some grain in certain places and some debris also, but these issues proved to be minor and didn’t detract much from the film. The colors look very good, from the rich hues to the natural desert tones, with no smears in the least. The flesh tones also look good, very warm and with no distortion at all to be seen. The contrast looks sharp as well, as black levels are dead on and detail level is high throughout. I also detected no compression flaws with this transfer, which prompts me to give this disc a very high score in this section.

Audio: How does it sound?

This is a dialogue fueled film and as such, the included Dolby Digital 5.1 track is not one to showcase your system with. But this mix has the punch when it needs it, so don’t think you won’t get a high quality audio presentation. The surrounds are used by the musical score, which sounds terrific here and really adds to the tone of the film. This is a film based in the Southwest and the music reflects that, very cool and proper tunes here. I didn’t hear much from the sound effects, but a decent amount of subtle use is present and the track never seems inadequate. The main element is dialogue and it sounds great in this mix, no volume or clarity problems surface in the least. This disc also houses a Spanish audio track and English subtitles, which are both nice features to have.

Supplements: What are the extras?

This disc has a few cool bonus features, including a very nice audio commentary track with director Alfonso Arau. This is a very relaxed commentary, in which Arau discusses his memories of the film. He does pat the actors on the back a few too many times, but this is still a worthwhile commentary track in the end. A five minute behind the scenes featurette is also present, though it just lacks the substance I would have liked from it. The disc also includes the film’s theatrical trailer, a trivia game, talent files, production notes, and brief interviews with many members of the cast & crew.

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