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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 4/3/00

Love and Death on Long Island
1996 (2000) - Universal

review by Dan Kelly of The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

Love and Death on Long Island Film Rating: B+

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B+/B/D

Specs and Features

94 mins, PG-13, letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1), 16x9 enhanced, single-sided, single-layered, Amaray keep case packaging, theatrical trailer, film-themed menu screens, scene access (18 chapters), languages: English (DD 2.0 Surround), Closed Captioned

Giles De'Ath (John Hurt) is a reticent and esteemed British novelist, seen by some as an erstwhile fogey. He leads a quiet life, choosing to avoid or ignore most of the modern day, non-literary conveniences. He owns neither a VCR nor a television set and he is fine with this... until he decides to attend a film for the first time in a very long while. While viewing what he at first believes to be an E.M. Forster film, he soon realizes that he is in the wrong theatre. Instead of Eternal Moment, he has stumbled into the newest film by American heartthrob Ronnie Bostock - Hotpants College II. Try to imagine a Porky's movie wrapped up in a social message. These are the kinds of movies Ronnie Bostock makes.

This is the beginning of the end for Giles' literary seclusion, and in almost an instant, his life is changed. His new found fixation on all things Bostock is as funny as it is heartbreaking. He approaches teen magazine scrap books, fan club information, and video rentals with the same trepidation that any scared teen would feel sneaking out of a book store with a nudie magazine. Eventually, his obsession leads him to Long Island, where Ronnie lives with his girlfriend. It is there that Giles decides he is going to do what he can for Ronnie. He is going to help him become the actor he so desperately wants to be.

The real joy in this movie is the subtle and winning performance of John Hurt. The easy route would have been the "go for broke" approach - to bring the role completely over the top and ham it up. Instead, Hurt brings a level of sophistication to the role that ordinarily would have been left out of it. By playing Ronnie, Jason Priestly stretches his screen image past television teen-magnet... well, almost. Sure, he's playing himself (sort of), playing Ronnie Bostock. Which, in effect, is just about the same character he does on Beverly Hills 90210, but he's doing it in a different kind of movie. The way Ronnie feels about playing these stock teen roles could very well be how most of the brat-pack crowd feels about these exact roles. He knows his talent, or what he's allowed to show of it, which is very limiting, and he wants to play the parts that will win him big paychecks and respect from the acting community.

This is a movie about adolescent obsession for an entirely different, more grown-up audience, with adult humor that teen audiences may not be distant enough from to completely understand. Obsession is crushing, but it can be very humorous when you step outside of yourself and examine it from a different point of view. Watching this movie, I was reminded of the crushes I had when I was a teenager, and I'm sure most people that see this movie will remember them too and realize how awfully embarrassing it would be to re-live them as an adult.

Universal chose to release Love and Death on Long Island as a very basic disc. The film is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1, with a nice anamorphic treatment. This picture looks nice, though I did notice some edge enhancement and occasional color bleed. A mildly quiet and non-invasive Dolby Surround track is included. The movie is pretty high on dialogue and low on the sound effects end of things, so there is little use of the surround speakers. But dialogue is always clear and very easy to understand without having to adjust the volume level.

The extras are where Universal drops the ball. There's a trailer and a chapter list, though anyone worth their weight in salt wouldn't consider a chapter list a special feature. A commentary by the director or any of the actors would have been welcome, as would anamorphic enhancement of the film's theatrical trailer.

Universal has always been a big supporter of DVD and special editions, so it's a little easier to cut them some slack when they release a bare-bones disc. As DVD fans anywhere can attest, it's all too easy to become accustomed to grand collector's editions and forget about the days when VHS was the only realistic and attainable option for home viewing of movies. If you're looking for extras, you may just want to rent this disc, but it's worth the price of purchase if you enjoyed the movie.

Dan Kelly
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