Reviewed by Colin Jacobson
Columbia-TriStar, widescreen 1.85:1/16x9, languages: English DD 5.1 [CC] & Dolby Surround, Portuguese & Spanish Digital Stereo, subtitles: English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, single side-single layer, 28 chapters, talent files, production notes, theatrical trailer, rated R, 93 min., $27.95, street date 11/23/99.
Directed by Gregg Araki. Starring Kathleen Robertson, Johnathon Schaech, Matt Keeslar, Kelly MacDonald, Eric Mabius, Dan Gatto.
Why have one boyfriend when you can have two? Veronica's lackluster love life gets the kick it needs when in one crazy night she meets handsome brooding novelist Abel and sexy drummer Zed -- and falls in love with both of them! Soon, the three are living together in splendor but their unconventional romance is threatened when a new suiter arrives on the scene with an offer Veronica can't refuse…
Splendor is an ultra-hip and stylish romantic comedy by acclaimed filmmaker Gregg Araki featuring break-out performances by actors Kathleen Robertson, Johnathon Schaech, Matt Keelsar and a killer soundtrack including the Chemical Brothers, Fatboy Slim, Blur and New Order.
If ever I start to feel old and long for my early-twenties, I now know the perfect solution to those woes: pop in the DVD of Splendor and I'll happily embrace my current age. Although it doesn't seem to have been its goal, this film succinctly encapsulates just how shallow and annoying many people in that age range can be.
Okay, I'm painting with an awfully broad brush here, and I probably shouldn't slander an entire demographic, but I really disliked the characters of Splendor an awful lot. They're all so vain and self-absorbed and obnoxious and pretentious and dumb and dull that I just couldn't stand it.
Actually, it's the females of the piece who come off the worst. Our protagonist is manipulative slut Veronica (Kathleen Robertson), who can't choose which man she likes best, so she keeps them all! If one doesn't behave the way she wants, she just attends to the other until the first comes around to her way of thinking. Her cloying flirtatiousness and almost complete lack of regard for others are quite egregious. Anyone with a misogynistic streak will delight in Splendor; it lets woman-haters feel justified.
Then there's token lesbian best friend Mike (Kelly MacDonald). (Yes, that's right - "Mike.") She's a complete stereotype - she works a construction job, for God's sake! And she's also quite brusque and pushy. Another thoroughly unlikeable female character.
The males in the film mainly come across as shallow and self-absorbed as well, but at least they seem nice and emotionally open. The movie makes a name for itself by involving Veronica in an unusual love triangle: her boyfriends - lunkish drummer Zed (Matt Keeslar) and wimpy writer Abel (Peter Gallagher clone Johnathan Schaech) - are well aware of each other, and they both date Veronica simultaneously. I have no problem with the lack of traditional values inherent in this, but I simply find Veronica's conniving and deceitful behavior to be intensely bothersome.
I kept hoping that eventually, at least one of these guys - a third male pops into the romantic picture late in the film - would tell her to go screw herself, but that never happens. They continue to moon after her from start to finish. Why? I'll be damned if I know. Veronica's pretty sexy, I must admit, but she doesn't present any other noteworthy characteristics that I could see; she's not smart, or witty, or fun, and she certainly doesn't seem to be a very nice person.
Obviously, I had a hard time getting past that character. Other than her, though, Splendor isn't a bad movie. Despite its twist, it's fairly standard romantic comedic material. It possesses no great insight or wit, and is generally competent but unremarkable. It's one of those movies that's just kind of "there;" if I didn't so intensely dislike Veronica, I'd have forgotten the film about three seconds after the DVD stopped spinning.
Despite the unmemorable quality of the movie itself, Splendor makes for a decent DVD. Columbia-Tristar (CTS) haven't gone out of their way on this one, but it's not a bad presentation. The film is presented in it's original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 on this single-sided, single-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions.
CTS DVDs are often noted for their sharp pictures, and Splendor indeed looks pretty good. I found the image to appear consistently sharp without any obvious edge enhancement. None of the jagged edges or moiré effects that sometimes accompany the presentation of a 16X9 enhanced image on my 4X3 TV appeared, either. The print used for the transfer seemed decent but offered a surprisingly high number of flaws, given the newness of the film; marks, scratches and spots occasionally marred the presentation. Grain seemed absent, but the picture showed a strange grittiness at times.
Colors looked absolutely fantastic, with very bright and bold hues dominating the film. Black tones are not highlighted in this film, so I didn't really take much notice of them; what's there seems fine, though. Shadow detail also isn't much of an issue, but when it arises, it also appears acceptable. Splendor certainly isn't a great-looking DVD, but it's definitely very good, with just a few notable flaws.
When I watch semi-indie films like Splendor, I'm always mildly amazed that they're not monaural. Not only does Splendor offer a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix, it offers a fantastic Dolby Digital 5.1 mix! From beginning to end, this soundtrack maintains a high level of activity and well-integrated audio.
Most of the sound revolves around the nearly-constant music. The tunes themselves didn't do much for me, but they suit the film well and they're presented it wonderfully. Music almost always surrounds the listener but never seems gimmicky; the presentation appears very natural and logical. Some effects also come through all five channels; while this doesn't happen with the regularity of the music, when it does, it's very nicely spaced in the soundfield and it also fits in with the overall design.
Quality of sound is almost always topnotch. Dialogue sound clear and natural, although a tiny amount of distortion occasionally creeps into the mix. Effects seem true and realistic, and the music sounds terrific. It's clean, it's crisp, it's kicking! The low end is reproduced faithfully, and whole thing sounds just great. I came awfully close to giving the audio mix of Splendor an "A+," something I don't do very frequently, as longtime readers may know. Splendor didn't quite make it to that level, but it came extremely close; the sound mix is simply wonderful.
I wish I could offer such glowing comments for the DVD's supplements, but unfortunately, they pretty much bite. We see three trailers; one is for Splendor itself, and the others are for Hush and Finding Graceland, two films that feature Johnathan Schaech. "Talent files" are presented for both director/writer/coproducer Gregg Araki and Schaech; as is typical of CTS DVDs, these are very uninformative and approach uselessness. (What is the obsession with Schaech here? Do this DVD's producers live in some alternate universe where he's a huge star and deserves all of the focus he gets here? I'm confused.) A four-page booklet comes in the case, and it also offers a few text comments about the film from the director; they're decently interesting. Overall, these extras are pretty dull and barely elevate this DVD above the level of a "bare bones" effort.
Ultimately, I can't recommend Splendor to anyone other than dedicated misogynists. It's a watchable, mildly entertaining little movie, but our main character is just too annoying. The DVD is decent, with good picture and excellent sound, although it almost completely lacks supplements. At best, this one's a rental.
Current as of 12/20/99
Previous: Life is Beautiful | Back to Main Page