Plot: What’s it about?
Ellie Christianson (Julia Stiles) seems like a normal fourteen year old girl, as she argues with her parents, gets into some trouble at school, and wants to put on makeup, but in truth, she harbors a much darker side. She has a vicious temper and suffers from depression, perhaps due to the conditions of her home life. She and her family live in Casa Del Norte, a subdivision with perfect surroundings, but Ellie’s family is not so perfect. Her mother has been cheating with a scumbag neighbor, while her father is in love with the Danish au pair and soon, her mother will dump both her husband and lover, then take Ellie and her sister to a new home. Ellie hates this idea, as she loves her father, but how far would she go to keep him by her side? Soon, her mother is beaten to death with a blunt object, which means she stays with her father, but her mother is dead and never coming back. Ellie now begins to wear her mother’s clothes, makeup, cook dinner, and even tries to become even closer to her father, but was she behind her own mother’s death?
I think this movie was released on DVD due to the recent surge in Julia Stiles’ career, but don’t dismiss this as a coattail film, or you’ll miss out. Wicked was released in 1998 and played several film festivals, but was never given a wide theatrical release. But even so, it had good word of mouth and solid critical praise, so I figured it was inevitable that we’d see a disc sooner or later. It was later to be sure, but Wicked is a terrific movie and as such, it was well worth the wait. I want to say up front that this is a dark vision of suburban life, with some moments that will offend some viewers, without a doubt. You’ll see gushes of blood, brutal murders, underage sex & drinking, incest themes, and other less than mainstream issues probed, so if you can’t handle those, Wicked is too just wicked for you. The film moves between a thriller and a dark comedy at times, but which one it ends up as is more up to the viewer, and how they spin the events. I found myself laughing out loud at times, while other times I couldn’t believe what I was seeing, very cool stuff indeed. Wicked is an excellent, but dark picture and while Columbia has issued a minimalist disc here, I have to bump up the overall score, as the film deserves the higher marks.
She has risen to fame now as a peppy, beautiful young woman, but in Wicked, Julia Stiles takes on a much different role, one I doubt she would revisit these days. I love to see mainstream performers in darker roles, but Stiles will likely keep away from ones like this now, in order to maintain her stable persona, in the eyes of the public. In any event, Stiles is literally intoxicating in this part, between her incredible performance and young, but still gorgeous good looks. I know she’s really young here, but she looks great and that’s played up here, due to the nature of her character and her actions. You can also see Stiles in such films as Save the Last Dance, The Devil’s Own, State and Main, 10 Things I Hate About You, and Down to You. The cast also includes William R. Moses (Trial by Jury, Alien from L.A.), Michael Parks (From Dusk ‘Til Dawn, Savannah Smiles), and Patrick Muldoon (Starship Troopers, Chain of Command).
Video: How does it look?
Wicked is presented in a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer, with a full frame option on the disc’s flip side. The image here shows more grain than expected, but still looks terrific and should please viewers. The grain is only evident in a few scenes and isn’t too thick even then, so I won’t knock the score too much, by any means. The contrast is even and never obscures detail, which is impressive, as this movie has a lot of darker scenes to contend with. No issues on the color side, as the hues look bright, but always with a natural, realistic scope. A few flaws aside, this transfer is very good and I doubt anyone will be let down.
Audio: How does it sound?
The included Dolby Digital 5.1 option is more than solid, but due to the material, never gets to take much of a foothold. Wicked has thriller elements and thrillers have good audio potential, but this isn’t a total thriller, so those expectations go out the window. A few scenes have good use of the surround to enforce atmosphere and tension, but this is a pretty conservative mix, as I think it should be. The musical soundtrack also kicks in the surrounds at times, so this is not a dead audio experience however, not even close. The dialogue never falters and is clean throughout, with no volume errors in the slightest to mention. This disc also includes a 2.0 surround option, as well as subtitles in English, French, Spanish, Korean, Chinese, and Thai.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This disc includes some talent files, as well as the film’s trailer.