Terms Of Endearment

Terms Of Endearment (1983)
Paramount Home Video
Cast: Shirley MacLaine, Jack Nicholson, Debra Winger
Extras: Commentary Track, Theatrical Trailer

James L. Brooks’ 1983 multiple-Oscar winner ’Terms of Endearment’ has finally made its way to DVD and Paramount Home Video has done a fine job with it. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the digital transfer has been enhanced for 16×9 TVs. The image is sharp and clear, but there is a fine grain present on the picture. For the most part, the fleshtones appear natural and true, but some of the colors seem to be a bit washed out (it’s hard to discern is this is a flaw in the transfer or part of Brooks’ original intention to make a ’natural’ looking movie). The framing appears to be accurate and there are no overt complications from artifacting or compression problems. The audio on the DVD is a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix, which offers clear and audible dialogue, and does a fine job of showcasing the memorable score by Michael Gore. However, don’t expect an overwhelming sonic experience, as the rear speakers only offer up subtle sound effects and musical cues. For you purists, the film’s original mono soundtrack has been restored and is offered on this DVD.

The ’Terms of Endearment’ DVD features an audio commentary with writer/producer/director James L. Brooks (or James ’Hell’ Brooks, as he’s known to fans of ’The Simpsons’), co-producer Penney Finkelman Cox, and production designer Polly Platt. Let me start by saying that this is one of those commentaries where the speakers haven’t seen the film in a while, so they simply sit and watch in silence at times. Brooks does most of the talking, and while he is chatty and informative, he’s also quite a tease. He’ll begin to tell a juicy anecdote and he’ll either A) stop in the middle, or B) leave out of the incriminating names. I wasn’t expecting a gossip-fest, but you shouldn’t lead people on like that. He does make it very clear that Debra Winger was difficult to work with and every few minutes he’s saying something like, ’Debra refused to do this…’ or ’Debra left the set…’ The only other extra on the DVD is the theatrical trailer for the film. It’s letterboxed at 1.85:1, lasts over four-and-a-half minutes and is one of the worst trailers ever.

While one could argue that Paramount could have added more extras, it’s just nice to have ’Terms of Endearment’ available on DVD. The film is the quintessential example of the ’dramedy’ and always walking the fine line between laughter and tears. The film explores the lives of two women from Houston, Texas; Aurora Greenway (Shirley MacLaine) and her daughter Emma (Debra Winger). ’Terms of Endearment’ takes place over several decades, as we watch Emma grow up and marry Flap (Jeff Daniels) and have a family of her own. This story is paralleled by that of Aurora and her relationship with her ex-astronaut neighbor, Garrett (Jack Nicholson). Watching the film today, it’s easy to see why it went home with so many Oscars. The performances are right on target, and Brooks simple and restrained direction gives the movies the sense of realism that it needs. (This is the man that made ’As Bad as it Gets’?) While it’s overall sad tone doesn’t make the film a candidate for constant repeat viewings (for me at least), I definitely admire ’Terms of Endearment’, and it would make a welcome addition to any DVD collection.