• Gloria (Twilight Time Releasing) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Twilight Time Releasing
    Released on: August 21st, 2018.
    Director: John Cassavetes
    Cast: Gena Rowlands, Buck Henry, John Adames, Julie Carmen
    Year: 1980
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    Gloria – Movie Review:

    A more mainstream film than the type of picture writer/director John Cassavetes is typically associated with, 1980’s Gloria stars the filmmakers wife Gena Rowlands as a middle-aged New Yorker named Gloria Swenson. But before we get to her, we meet a kid named Phil Dawn (John Adames). His father (Buck Henry) turned on the mobsters that employed him and in retaliation, he and everyone else in his family – save for Phil – was gunned down. Before that happened, John’s mother pushed him onto Gloria hoping that she’d be able to help him get to safety.

    Gloria doesn’t like kids. She makes this clear. But without much of an option, she winds up getting involved. See, before John’s father was killed he gave John a book and in that book is a lot of information that the mob would prefer the authorities don’t get their hands on. This makes John a target and, as Gloria starts to develop an affinity for the mouthy little guy, she starts to get genuinely protective of him. As the mobsters close in, Gloria and John wind up on the run, hoping to make it to Pittsburgh and ultimately safety – but of course, there are complications along the way.

    A pretty straightforward picture, Gloria works both as a chase film and as a character study of sorts. As our two leads go about their business, dodging one mob hit after another, we get to know them. While Phil’s character isn’t always believable (we rarely see him grieve for his family like a kid his age would most certainly do and instead see him ‘man up’), we do get to know him enough to like him. The kid’s got spunk and attitude to spare, at one point telling Gloria she’d better do what he says because he’s the man! Gloria herself gets more depth. We know early on that she doesn’t want to get involved in this but it isn’t until her past comes to light that we truly know why. Sure, running around dealing with someone else’s kid is rarely fun, but Gloria’s got a complicated past and criminal ties of her own that don’t make this any easier for her.

    As you’d expect, Rowlands is excellent in the lead. She was nominated for both an Oscar and a Golden Globe for her work here and while she didn’t take home either trophy, her work in front of the camera is what really makes this picture work. She and Adames have an interesting chemistry here and while her character is certainly tough, she’s very definitely human and that humanity comes out through Rowlands’ portrayal of the character. The fact that she was being directed by her husband and longtime collaborator probably helped here as there would be an intimacy between the two and a comfort level that might not exist had someone else been in charge behind the camera, but either way, Rowlands is great. Adames’ performance is very different but he’s entertaining in the part, if not always believable. Part of that has to do with how his character is written and part of it has to do with the performance, but if nothing else he’s fun to watch. Supporting work from Buck Henry and Julie Carmen as Phil’s parents is solid and look both Tom Noonan and Sunny Landham to appear as hitmen in the film.

    Shot entirely on location in New York City, the film manages to capture the gritty aesthetic that is key to the look of the film. The story takes us from The Bronx to Manhattan and even into Queens, showing off architecture both beautiful and dilapidated along the way. Cassavetes, who had no false pretenses about the film being made as a commercial endeavor, keeps the pacing tight and controlled while Bill Conti’s score and Fred Schuler’s cinematography are also very impressive.

    Gloria – Blu-ray Review:

    Twilight Time’s Blu-ray release of Gloria gives the film a 1.85.1 widescreen transfer in AVC encoded 1080p high definition and it looks excellent. There’s plenty of depth and detail here and excellent color reproduction as well. Black levels are nice and deep and shadow detail is strong. There are no noticeable issues with any crush in the darker scenes nor are there any problems with compression artifacts to note. Skin tones look nice and natural and never waxy or too pink. The wonderfully film-like image has a noticeable amount of film grain, as it should, but no noticeable print damage to complain about. Noise reduction and edge enhancement are never a problem – all in all, the movie looks great.

    The only audio option for the feature is an English language DTS-HD Mono track, with optional subtitles provided in English only. No problems to report here, the movie sounds fine. Dialogue is clean and crisp and the levels are nicely balanced. The score benefits from the lossless treatment, it has some nice depth to it, and the sound effects used in the film, gunshots in particular, have good punch behind them.

    Extras on the disc include two trailers for the feature and an isolated score option in DTS-HD 2.0 format. Menus and chapter selection are included and inside the disc is an insert booklet of liner notes from essayist Julie Kirgo that do a nice job of explaining how even more mainstream Cassavetes fair is worthwhile and what makes Gloria as interesting a film as it is.

    Gloria – The Final Word:

    Gloria isn’t the most original film in the world but it works thanks in no small part to Rowlands’ excellent performance. Cassavetes’ direction keeps the pace nicely controlled while some excellent location photography ensures that the movie has an appropriately gritty tone throughout. Twilight Time’s Blu-ray release is light on extras but it sounds good and looks even better. Recommended.

    Click on the images below for full sized Gloria Blu-ray screen caps!