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Release Date(s)2011 (May 7, 2013)
Barrymore is a filmed version of the theatrical, one-man show classic. Starring Christopher Plummer in the role he perfected on Broadway, this version is both incredibly faithful to its theatrical counterpart, but also takes some liberties with the visuals.
Even though Erik Canuel is unafraid to play with the visual presentation of the film, I personally don’t think that he did enough with it. There are long sections where it’s simply the play as is, but when Plummer goes off on tangents concerning childhood and regret, he may step into his childhood home for a look around in black and white, and then back to the stage again. I just don’t feel like there are enough of these moments to keep things visually interesting. As exquisite as Plummer’s performance is, I found myself slightly bored at times. It’s different than seeing the actual play unfold before your eyes. In person it can be captivating because it’s happening right in front of you, and Plummer is certainly capable of it. It’s just a shame that when the play is moved over into a new medium, it isn’t as exciting as one would hope. It’s certainly not a bad go of it. It simply needs a little more style to it.
The Blu-ray presentation of Barrymore is quite excellent. Shot on high definition video, the film is ripe with image detail. All of the objects found on stage, as well as the suit that John Barrymore wears, are full of detail. Plummer’s skin tone is very accurate, contrast is very good and the colors are all very lush. The images do appear a little soft without perfectly straight edges, but thankfully, no edge enhancement has been utilized to improve this. The soundtrack, English 5.1 DTS-HD, is also very good. To be fair, there isn’t much for an almost entirely dialogue-driven film to do with a surround soundtrack, but I found it surprisingly well-mixed. The character of Frank, who does line readings for Barrymore on stage left, is appropriately in the right field of the sound stage. When Barrymore has multiple conversations with himself as other people, the left and right speakers are put to good use for effect. The score, of which there is very little, creeps in and out of the proceedings without ever stepping on them. All of the dialogue is perfectly audible as well, so it’s not an amazing soundtrack, but excellent for what it is. There are also subtitles in English for those who need them.
The sole extra on the disc is a documentary entitled Backstage With Barrymore. Watching Christopher Plummer as Barrymore running lines from “Richard the III” and losing himself in his past and lose his temper is worth the price of admission alone. It may not be all that visually interesting, but it’s an admirable attempt to capture a virtuoso performance on film. For that alone, I recommend it.
- Tim Salmons