Isn’t She Great

Isn’t She Great (2000)
Universal Home Video
Cast: Bette Midler, Nathan Lane, Stockard Channing, David Hyde Pierce, John Cleese
Extras: Production Notes, Biographies, Trailer

I have always enjoyed Bette Midler’s outgoing personality, her loud performances and her hilarious comedic work. It is a shame, things had quieted down around her a little in the past years but it seems she’s in for a great summer this year. Besides Columbia TriStar’s upcoming release of "Drowning Mona", Universal Home Video is now bringing us "Isn’t She Great," a film in which Bette gets to play the dubious and outrageous Jacqueline Susann, who rocked the world with her novel "Valley Of The Dolls."

Jacqueline Susann (Bette Midler) is an ambitious woman, but sadly her talent does not really keep up with those ambitions. An average small-time actress, she dreams of breaking into the big time and her frustration grows with every day and she inevitably falls into obscurity. But there is Irving Mansfield (Nathan Lane), a publicity manager who fell in love with Jacqueline the first time he saw her. Adoring her and her sense of humor, he befriends Jacqueline and eventually the two get married. With all his might, Irving tries to bring his wife back into the spotlight and into the public conscious, but all seems in vain. Jacqueline turns bitter in frustration, but with unbreakable faith and love, Irving keeps supporting her. One day he instills the idea in Jacqueline to write a book, and taking the idea to her own irrepressible extremes, after giving it some thought, she actually begins working on a novel.

"Valley Of The Dolls" is the title of the novel, a dubious book that takes readers behind the glamour of Hollywood and uncovers affairs, practices and other secrets of Tinseltown and the people within. Of course, she’s not really a writer, but her untamed style, as well as her poignant and unflinchingly revealing observations break all taboos. Despite her editor’s attempts to give the novel some polish, Jacqueline thinks very little of political correctness and not once minces her words.
Upon release, the novel shoots up the best seller lists in record time and brings Jacqueline finally the fame and fortune she had been looking for, for so long.

If you thought Nathan Lane is a shallow comedian, "Isn’t She Great" is a movie that will give you a glimpse at some additional sides of the actor. His passionate and compassionate play in this movie is truly touching. Adoring Jacqueline every second of the day, selflessly enjoying her success and supporting her to the point of self-sacrifice, Lane’s character is always believable and every bit as important in carrying this film as Bette Midler’s great performance as Jacqueline Susann. Bette, of course, is perfect for the part to bring the escapades and eccentric antics of Jacqueline Susann to colorful life and I couldn’t even think of another actress that could have captured this character as well as she does in this movie.

"Isn’t She Great" may not be for everyone. For some it may not be funny enough, for others it may be too heartfelt and sensitive. I truly enjoyed the film and rooted firmly for Jacqueline and the success she and her husband had been working towards for such a long time. She may not have been the most talented writer/actress but she had something to say that people wanted to hear – despite the many attempts to belittle her talents. In my book however, having the ability to hit people’s desires dead-on, is quite a talent just as well.

Universal Home Video is presenting "Isn’t She Great" on DVD that contains an <$16x9,anamorphic> <$PS,widescreen> transfer, as well as a full screen presentation of the movie, on a <$RSDL,dual-layer> disc that allows you to conveniently select the version you wish to watch from the disc’s menu. The <$PS,full frame> version is presented as an <$OpenMatte,open matte>r transfer that adds some image information at the top and bottom of the frame instead of cropping the image on the sides. The <$16x9,anamorphic> <$PS,widescreen> transfer reproduces the movie’s original theatrical 1.85:1 aspect ratio and is highly detailed. Very clean and without blemishes, the presentation has a very natural quality and faithfully restores the movie’s naturalistic look. Colors are strong and finely rendered with absolutely faithful skin tones. The blacks in the transfer are deep and solid, yet never lose the detail that is visible in the shadows. Good highlights add to the movie’s overall presentation and the lack of edge-enhancement gives the film a very warm, almost film-like appearance. The compression is of the highest possible quality, leaving every bit of detail in the transfer fully intact. No compression artifacts of any sort can be found on either of the two transfers.

"Isn’t She Great" features a <$5.1,5.1 channel> <$DD,Dolby Digital> audio track in English that is complemented by English closed-captions and French subtitles. Given the nature of the film, the audio track is rather restrained and does not feature exaggerated surround effects. Instead, the film features a subtle ambient track that makes use of the surround channels mostly to add life to the images we see on screen, by enhancing the ambient sound field throughout the movie. Nonetheless, there are moments when the sound track becomes quite active and creates an engaging sound stage that is wide and deep. With a good and unexaggerated bass response, the track has a very natural quality that never seems harsh. It is free of distortion and always has a very pleasing clarity.

Being a day and date release of this movie, the DVD does not contain a great many extras other than Production Notes, Cast and Crew biographies and the movie’s theatrical trailer.

"Isn’t She Great" is a nice blend between romantic melancholy and a social persiflage. With great funny moments that are perfectly intermingled with touching events that can break your heart, this movie is an emotional tribute to Jacqueline Susann and her work. With a great cast and a well-told story, this is indeed, a great DVD addition for comedy fans with a heart.