Plot: What’s it about?
Miranda Presley (Samantha Mathis) has dreams of being a music star, writing and performing her own songs for a legion of fans. She hails from New York City, but in order to take a step toward her dream, she moves to the capital of country music, Nashville. Of course, she isn’t alone in Nashville as someone with dreams to be in the music business, as thousands of others have the same goal in mind. Soon after she arrives, she auditions for an amateur performance spot at The Blue Bird Cafe. This is not a simple task, as the auditions lure in many talented folks and competition is stiff. Her work is called novel, but her potential is praised and she is told to go to her heart for her new material. Soon she meets some new friends, Linda Lue (Sandra Bullock), James (River Phoenix), and Kyle (Dermot Mulroney), all fellow aspiring music stars. Kyle is drawn to Miranda right off, but she seems to be more interested in Kyle, despite his casual attitude toward her. Although Kyle’s feelings are well known, she opts for James and their relationship is not stable in the least. So as she pursues her professional dream, will she ever find personal happiness to boot?
I have to admit, a movie about some folks trying to become country music stars in Nashville isn’t the kind of flick I’d normally watch. At least the cast members do supply their voices when they sing, so perhaps that could be enough to make this watchable. I ended up not disliking The Thing Called Love, but by the same token, I wasn’t that taken with the picture. This is the kind of movie you watch and while you’re never bored, you’re never that enthralled, it just falls in the middle. The storyline is simple and to the point, with characters that seem at home within that basic structure. Not a lot of depth, but there isn’t that much need for depth, as this just isn’t that kind of motion picture. The cast is good across the board, with River Phoenix, Dermot Mulroney, and Sandra Bullock in the main slots. This isn’t their best work, but they do fine and their performances don’t lack. The direction is more than decent, but you’d expect more from someone like Peter Bogdanovich. So in the end, this isn’t a must see movie, but you could do worse for a rental.
Video: How does it look?
The Thing Called Love is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. This movie has seen better days, or at least I hope it has. The print is in decent condition as far as debris and marks, but grain is constant and does impact the visuals. The grain might not be thick at all times, but it does lessen the visuals and fans will not be that pleased. The result is a very dim overall presence, with a softer texture and that means less detail, which is bad news. The dull texture also pulls down brightness within the colors and softens the black levels, this is just not as good as it should have been.
Audio: How does it sound?
This is a movie about the music business, so the soundtrack needed to be on and the Dolby Digital 5.1 option found here is up to the task. The main focus is on the music of course and it sounds terrific, with a lot of life and a great presence in the surrounds. The music isn’t half bad for what it is, so the surrounds really bring you into the songs and by turn, into the movie itself. The surrounds don’t do much outside of the music, but the material doesn’t demand they do, so all is well. No worries with dialogue, as the vocals have a clean, crisp sound from start to finish here. This disc also includes a 2.0 surround option, as well as English subtitles.
Supplements: What are the extras?
The main attraction is director Peter Bogdanovich’s audio comments, which cover a broad range of technical cinema topics. I wasn’t as into this track as I have been others of his, but for fans, this is another solid commentary session. This disc also includes a tribute to River Phoenix, a look at the film’s cinematography, and a nice behind the scenes featurette.