All About Steve [Blu-Ray]
Director : Phil Traill
Screenplay : Kim Barker
MPAA Rating : PG-13
Year of Release : 2009
Stars : Sandra Bullock (Mary Horowitz), Thomas Haden Church (Hartman), Bradley Cooper (Steve), Ken Jeong (Angus), DJ Qualls (Howard), Keith David (Corbitt), Howard Hesseman (Mr. Horowitz), Beth Grant (Mrs. Horowitz), Katy Mixon (Elizabeth), M.C. Gainey (Norm the Truck Driver), Holmes Osborne (Soloman), Delaney Hamilton (Little Deaf Girl), Jason Jones (Vasquez)
Full disclosure: I went into All About Steve fully prepared to dislike it. While not having read any reviews, I was generally aware of the dismal critical reception that had greeted it on its opening weekend (it’s hard not to notice a film with only 6% on the Tomatometer). And, perhaps it was because of my resulting diminished expectations, but I found myself actually enjoying the lunacy of this ridiculously off-kilter romantic comedy, which throws all caution to the wind and dives headfirst into its narratively fractured and utterly nonsensical screwball slapstick about misplaced romantic obsession. If it didn’t come from a major studio, I would think the film is a satire of romantic comedies, or at least some kind of avant-garde experiment in testing the limits of audience identification.
Sandra Bullock, who also coproduced the film, stars as Mary Horowitz, the resident cruciverbalist of a small-town California newspaper. For those (like myself) who have no idea what a cruciverbalist is, it’s a person who creates crossword puzzles, and for Mary it is her life, not so much because of the crosswords themselves, but because they allows her to indulge her love of words and arcane knowledge, which she tries to convey to others via friendly small talk that makes her seem like a rambling loon (at one point she is literally ditched on the side of the highway by a bus driver who is fed up with her incessant yammering, a move that meets with applause from the other passengers). Mary’s problem is that she’s hyper everything, but especially hyperactive and hyperarticulate, which tends to suffocate everyone around her. Thus, it is not hard to see that Mary is a rather challenging central character, one who is designed from the outset to grate your nerves, perhaps to the point of no return.
Mary lives at home with her well-meaning and genuinely caring parents (Howard Hesseman and Beth Grant), who set her up on a blind date with the eponymous Steve (Bradley Cooper), a handsome and otherwise completely normal cameraman for a fictional cable news network. Mary is so smitten with him at first sight that she literally throws herself at him before he can even pull away from the curb, and while her sexual aggression is at first welcomed with surprised, but open, arms, Steve quickly realizes that she is more than he can possible handle, and he makes up a story about being called off to work just to get out of there. Before he does so, however, he makes the crucial error of being “nice” by telling her it would be great if she could be on the road with him, which she mistakes for an actual invitation.
This sets the story proper in motion, with Mary cluelessly following Steve around the country as he hops from one ridiculous tabloid story assignment to the next (one involves a baby born with three legs and the conflicting groups of demonstrators who are either supporting or vehemently against amputation of the extra appendage). Steve and a beleaguered producer (Ken Jeong) are assigned to a self-absorbed and generally inept journalist named Hartman Hughes (Thomas Haden Church), who is infinitely more interested in how he looks on camera than in reporting anything that reeks of news, although he finds plenty of time to fill Mary’s head with false hopes to keep her trailing them, partially to give Steve a hard time and partially because her constant word-vomit trivia benefits his reportage.
If I said that the movie eventually involves a tornado, a group of deaf school children falling into an abandoned mine, and DJ Qualls driving a Gremlin, you probably wouldn’t believe me, but that, alas, are only a few snippets of what the film has in store. The screenplay by Kim Barker (License to Wed) feels like it exploded out of a fever dream following a night of bad tequila, and first-time feature director Phil Traill seems more than content to just go with it. And, of course, at the center we have Sandra Bullock, who has proved in the past that she is more than willing to subvert Hollywood attractiveness to goofy comedy, which here verges into the kind of ego-less territory generally populated by the likes of Will Ferrell (which makes one wonder if the virulently negative reaction to her character is not influenced to some degree by gender expectations). To say that Bullock throws herself into a role that seems mathematically designed to alienate the audience is an understatement, but she nevertheless manages to make Mary into a uniquely sympathetic character who is genuinely true to her pathological self, consequences be damned, which is pretty much how the film as a whole plays. If you’re not on board with its scattershot comedy and fundamental weirdness, it could very well be a nightmare. But, if you let yourself sink into its wild wrong-headedness and just go with the flow, there are sublime pleasures to be had.
|All About Steve Blu-Ray|
|This two-disc set includes a digital copy of the film on a separate disc.|
|Subtitles||English, Spanish, Portuguese, Mandarin, Cantonese|
|Distributor||20th Century Fox Home Entertainment|
|Release Date||December 22, 2009|
|VIDEO & AUDIO|
|All About Stevelooks plenty bright and shiny in its 1080p/AVC-encoded presentation on Blu-Ray. The image is generally crisp and sharp, with good detail, which is particularly important in the scenes that take place in Mary’s overstuffed bedroom (odd details includ a crossword puzzle dress in her closet, the infamous nude Burt Reynolds layout on her mirror, and a Black Power poster by her door). The film is generally brightly lit with strong colors that are very well represented, especially on Mary’s signature red boots. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround soundtrack is perfectly suitable for the material, with a heavy front soundstage that privileges dialogue but enough surround activity to give it a decently immersive feel, especially during the impressive tornado sequence and the crowd scenes at the end.|
|“Optional audio commentary” is the name of the game in the All About Steve supplements. Honestly, I can’t remember a disc that has had this many optional audio commentaries; but, then again, these are supplements for All About Steve, so “normal” is not to be expected. The feature film has a rollicking audio commentary by director Phil Traill, writer Kim Barker, and actors Sandra Bullock, Thomas Haden Church, Bradley Cooper, and Ken Jeong, who were recorded all together and clearly had a grand ol’ time doing so. It’s a fun commentary, especially if you appreciated the movie’s off-kilter humor. The entire crew also contributes optional commentary on roughly nine minutes worth of deleted and alternate scenes, a six-minute gag reel, and an a capella duet by Bradley Cooper and Ken Jeong singing a made-up song in front of a green screen (their voices are actually pretty impressive, even if their song is not). All of the commentary participants also appear in the 11-minute making-of featurette “All About All About Steve,” and Phil Traill appears in a 23-minute episode of Life After Film School, a Fox Movie Channel program in which three film school students interview working directors. From there the supplements get really odd: a montage of snapshots taken by crew members during the production that plays over a rap about Mary and a 17-minute faux gossip show called “Hollywood Dish With Mena Mitcheletti,” in which the clueless host aggravates and annoys various members of the cast (it is fitfully amusing, but goes on longer than it probably should).|
Copyright ©2009 James Kendrick
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