Plot: What’s it about?
I’m sure you’ve all heard stories of a musician who enjoyed great success, then toppled from their position, ending up a regular unfamous person again. This is because that happens often in the music business, people fall from grace and return to their day jobs almost daily. Some take this in stride, and are thankful for their time in the spotlight, but others don’t handle the fall as well. Mac Sledge (Robert Duvall) is about to take that dive from the top, and chances are slim he’ll take the downward turn well. Time has not been kind to Sledge, slowly losing his way in the business and on the verge of total breakdown. Sledge chose alcohol to help him through his trials and tribulations, but we all know how troublesome drinking can become. With alcohol taking it’s toll and even more personal issues to deal with, Sledge has all but given up on life and himself. But things could turn around for Sledge, as he meets a woman and her young son. With a loving and supportive family by his side, maybe Sledge can find his way once again.
A movie about a country western singer drowning in a bottle isn’t exactly my cup of cinematic tea, I found myself enthralled my this picture. Of course, with Robert Duvall as the lead, the movie would be great, but this movie has a charm and realism that puts it head and shoulders above the crowd. One of the things about this movie I love is how simple it is. No special effects, no flashy sets or costumes, just a rock solid movie with a great cast and story. While the simple nature of the film might send some reaching for No-Doz, those who enjoy this style film are in for a real treat here. I recommend this movie with my highest commendation, but I suggest a rental to all readers. Sure, the movie is worth owning, but unless a heck of a deal is involved, the disc just isn’t worth the asking price. No extras, an average audio and visual presentation, I can only hope for a new release that gives this film its just due.
As I mentioned above, since this movie has no glitz, glamour, or special effects, that puts the burden of the film squarely on the writing and actors. The screenplay was written by Horton Foote, who also wrote the screenplays for To Kill A Mockingbird and Tomorrow, both of which Duvall acted in, as well as others. The director of Tender Mercies, Bruce Beresford, has helmed many films, including the recent Double Jeopardy, with Tommy Lee Jones and Ashley Judd. Other films by Beresford include Black Robe, Driving Miss Daisy, Crimes of the Heart and Her Alibi. The cast of this movie do more than turn in great performances, they give powerful and moving turns here. Robert Duvall, who I believe is the finest actor ever to grace the silver screen, won an Academy Award for his work here, and certainly deserved it. I don’t feel this is his strongest performance (I think his best work is in The Apostle), but this is one of his finest turns, filled with realism and subtle power. The supporting cast includes Wilford Brimley (The Firm), Tess Harper (My New Gun, Ishtar), Ellen Barkin (Drop Dead Gorgeous, The Fan), Betty Buckley (Frantic, Simply Irrestible), and Allan Hubbard.
Video: How does it look?
Tender Mercies is presented in a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. This visual presentation is better than average, but this movie deserves much better. The colors are slightly muted, but this is somewhat due to the intentional muting for desired visual effect. Flesh tones are natural, and contrast looks sharp as well. I didn’t see any compression errors either. It’s not that this transfer is bad, but the movie is so good, it needs a perfect visual presentation.
Audio: How does it sound?
The disc uses a 2.0 surround track, although you won’t notice much surround use. The audio stays in the front channels, but still has a decent sound to it. Even the music has a rather flat texture, which is inexcusable for a surround track. Dialogue does sound good though, so you’ll hear every line perfectly. For a stereo track, this is a good one, but for a surround track, it just doesn’t measure up.
Supplements: What are the extras?
The disc has no special features outside of some very brief production notes on the keepcase insert. For a movie of this magnitude, I cannot imagine why more extras were not included. I hope Artisan comes to their senses and issues a special edition for this excellent film.