Terms of Endearment

January 28, 2012 8 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

Back in the mid 80’s, Terms of Endearment took home 5 Oscars, including Best Picture of the year. I’ll be the first to admit that I had never seen this movie until it’s arrival on DVD. And that’s one of the great things about DVD, the opportunity to watch movies in their most pristine form. I did know the history of the movie, Jack Nicholson won his second Academy Award for his role as Garrett Breedlove, a retired astronaut. Director, Writer and Producer James L. Brooks (who we all owe the credit of “The Simpson’s” to) also took home awards for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Director. Finally, there’s Shirley MaClaine. What can be said about this woman. Though a great actress, and nominated many times for an Oscar, this was her first win and a well-deserved one it was. While I always considered this to be some sort of a “chick” movie, it was confirmed in the first hour of watching this flick. Now that’s not to say that the movie is bad, but movies have labels and sometimes it’s hard to shed the stereotype. But enough about all that…

Aurora Greenway is a houswife in the suburbs of Houston, Texas. She lives and dies for her daughter, Emma (Debra Winger) who has married an Assistant Professor, Flap Horton (Jeff Daniels). It’s quite clear to say and see that Aurora and Flap don’t see eye to eye on things, but that doesn’t stop Emma and Flap from moving to Iowa…far away from mother. That’s what this story is really about…mothers and daughters. Aurora starts to have a little fling with her next door neighbor, a drunk ex-astronaut who spends most of his time in a bottle and/or hitting on women. While brash and blatantly offensive (as only Nicholson can do), he’s essentially a nice man underneath his somewhat “rough” exterior. Flap delves into his work more and more, time passes and before you know it, there’s a family at stake. As Flap pours himself into his career, this leads Emma to think that he might be having an affair. This also leads to a possible affair with John Lithgow’s character, as well. Not much else can be said, as the ending is one in which you don’t want to know what happens after reading this review.

While extremely popular, the sequel entitled “The Evening Star” didn’t fare nearly as well, Terms of Endearment is one of those movies in which they “got it right the first time”. Shirley MaClaine gives the performance of her career, and I was surprised to find such stars as John Lithgow, Danny DeVito and Jeff Daniels in the mix. All of the aforementioned stars are still working today and have very successful careers. While Terms of Endearment may not be one of the best movies around, I feel that it’s certainly worth a rental. How bad can it be if it won Best Picture? The treatment by Paramount has been kind, as the DVD looks and sounds great and as an added extra bonus, it features a great commentary track with James L. Brooks among others. Nicholson won his second Oscar here and there’s a reason why. He’s in rare form. Coincidentally enough, his third win for “As Good As It Gets” was also under the direction of Brooks. So maybe we’ll be lucky enough for them to team again.

Video: How does it look?

Presented in a new anamorphic transfer, Terms of Endearment looks surprisingly good. The 1.85:1 image is clean and clear throughout, though some of the scenes do appear to be a bit “fuzzy”. This is as a result of the picture though, and no fault of the DVD transfer. There are some scenes in which edge enhancement is a bit of a problem, but it’s not too distracting and the moments in question come and go very quickly. The palette is very soft and natural, and the colors are reflected in this transfer. Overall, for a movie that’s over 15 years old, this looks great. More and more with new digital transfers, we can finally see movies how they were meant to be seen and in some cases, they look better at home than they did in the movie theater. Viva la DVD!

Audio: How does it sound?

Paramount, in their continuing efforts in the audio department has not only given this film a brand new 5.1 track, but they have also restored the original mono track. So if you’re one of those people who love to have a 5.1 everything, then the soundtrack will sound decent on your home system. Though not reference quality, by any means, it does sound fairly good. Michael Gore’s score truly sounds great coming out of all 5 channels, but if you’re a “purist” then the original mono track is for you too. The mono track, much like that of Chinatown (where a 5.1 option is also available as is a restored mono track), sounds great and are sure to please anyone who watches them.

Supplements: What are the extras?

Terms of Endearment took home 5 Oscars including two for James L. Brooks (Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Director). Featuring a commentary track with “the man behind the Simpsons”, this is one that I couldn’t wait to listen to. Brooks is accompanied with Penny Finkleman (Co-Producer) and Polly Platt (Production Designer). While Brooks does most of the talking, the others do offer a lot of information about the movie and shoot. One of the better tracks that I’ve heard in a while, it’s nice to see Brooks do another commentary (he did one for “As Good As It Gets”) as well. Also included is a surprisingly long trailer in anamorphic widescreen for the movie. All in all, another solid release for Paramount, but I think people might be wanting more. For me…I’m happy with it.

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