Site created 12/15/97.
review added: 5/4/01
1998 (2000) - October Films (USA
review by Brian Ford Sullivan of
The Digital Bits
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B+/B-/B-
Specs and Features
110 mins, PG-13, letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1), single-sided, RSDL
dual-layered (layer switch at ???), Amaray keep case packaging, audio commentary
by writer/director James F. Robinson, cast filmographies, "lost"
scene, DVD-ROM features (including access to the film's screenplay and website),
film-themed menu screens, scene access (28 chapters), languages: English (DD
2.0), subtitles: English, Close Captioned
"You think I'm going to fall
in love with you?"
The age old formula of romantic comedies is boy meets girl, boy and girl fall
in love, boy or girl screws up, boy or girl realizes they belong together and
makes up with the other and, finally, boy and girl live happily ever after. The
job then falls to the writers and directors out there to make this formula feel
fresh and different, by putting new twists on it, thus making us wonder if (once
again) the boy and girl will end up together.
In the case of James F. Robinson's first feature, Still
Breathing, he puts forth an astonishingly unique twist to that
formula, one that focuses on the "fairy tale" aspect of love. Fletcher
McBraken (Brendan Fraser) is a sweet, soft-spoken Texas street performer and
artist, who comes from a long line of men that dream of their true loves and
then set out on quests to find them. It's not as simple as connecting the dots
though, as Fletcher only gets bits and pieces of who his true love is - an image
of a young boy and girl playing by a river, a neon sign that says "Formosa,"
and various other vague signs and portents. Believing the sign that reads "Formosa"
is the name of the place she's from, Fletcher discovers that Formosa is the name
of an island in the South Pacific, and books a flight to head out there. It's
then that Fate intervenes (showing him that Formosa is also a bar in L.A.) and
sends Fletcher to Los Angeles, where his true destiny awaits.
Enter Rosalyn Willoughby (Joanna Going), a jaded L.A. con artist who preys upon
the men who are attracted to her by getting them to buy fake art from one of her
friend's (Ann Magnuson) mock galleries at skyrocketed prices. After they do so,
she casts them aside (in often amusing ways) and moves on to the next victim.
It's when Fate strikes again (and switches her latest mark - a rich Texan - for
Fletcher) that, as they say, "the boy meets the girl."
Fletcher's kind demeanor throws Rosalyn for a loop, as he quickly starts to get
to her, exposing her for a torch-carrying romantic and kind soul. This
realization, of course, doesn't sit well with Rosalyn, and her con artist
instincts kick in. Fletcher also struggles with holding onto her as he tries to
find ways to tell her about his family's history and his dreams. But through
more appearances by Fate (which almost becomes a secondary character in itself),
it seems that the age-old story could very well come true despite the obstacles
Still Breathing is a film that asks you to
believe there are "fantasy" aspects to love. As ridiculous as the idea
of coming from a family who dreams of their first loves is... for some reason
you don't find yourself questioning it. You also don't wonder why twenty-odd
coincidences keep these characters together - you just believe in them. I think
that's a great thing to say about a film... that you're willing to suspend
belief simply because the characters are so engaging and the story is so
intoxicating. It's simply a fairy tale for the modern age.
Fraser and Going are wonderful together, as each actor takes the opposite
approach to the typical love story. Fraser's Fletcher embraces the feminine
aspects of love, while Going's Rosalyn takes on the more masculine angles. The
supporting cast also features some fine work by Celeste Holm, Lou Rawls and
Angus MacFadyen (as Fletcher's eccentric family and friends). There's also a lot
to be said for the stunning photography and settings, particularly the Alamo,
which serves as a strange epicenter for the story (for reasons I won't spoil
here). All in all, it's a bizarre and, at times, unexplainable tale, that
somehow manages to be everything you'd want from a love story.
Let's talk about the disc itself. USA Films has done an outstanding job with
most of its DVD releases, and that's the case here. The film is presented in a
nice (albeit not anamorphic) widescreen transfer, that does justice to all the
imagery and sounds that are crucial to the story. There are a few dust/dirt
artifacts visible on the print, and there's quite a bit of "pixelation"
in the outdoor scenes, but nothing I found particularly distracting. The Dolby
2.0 sound mix isn't anything to write home about, but serves the dialogue-heavy
As far as extras go, the key feature is writer/director James F. Robinson's
audio commentary, which talks about a lot of what I've mentioned here -
particularly the twists on the typical romantic comedy. He also spends quite a
lot of time on the music and art pieces that appear in the film, giving you a
small art and music history lesson throughout the commentary. The only annoying
part is his tendency to point out all the extra shots and cuts that were added
into the DVD (barely 2 minutes worth in total that I can tell). Also included on
the disc is a brief "lost scene" that shows a few more moments of Fate
working its magic on the characters. It runs about 3 minutes. Rounding out the
disc are the usual suspects - a trailer, cast and crew biographies and an odd
featurette that consists of each of the crew members introducing themselves and
saying what they do. Lastly, those with DVD-ROM capabilities can enjoy the
film's archived web site, as well as the complete screenplay (including each of
the script's drafts as well).
All in all, Still Breathing is one of
those diamonds in the rough that you're lucky enough to find every once in a
while. If you're one of those people that does believe in fairy tale love (or
maybe just need some affirmation in believing), then this is the film for you.
It also doesn't hurt that you get a fine DVD, with some nice extras for your
Brian Ford Sullivan