Case Number 01259

THINGS YOU CAN TELL JUST BY LOOKING AT HER

MGM // 2000 // 109 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // July 12th, 2001

The Charge

"Poised between fear and hope, each woman must weigh the choices she's made -- in order to meet the future unfolding in front of her."

Opening Statement

Things You Can Tell Just By Looking At Her is a little film that stars a very big cast. The producers were able to collect the unique talents of Holly Hunter (The Piano), Glenn Close (Air Force One), Cameron Diaz (Being John Malkovich), Kathy Baker (Picket Fences), Amy Brenneman (Judging Amy), and Calista Flockhart (Ally McBeal) for an interwoven story about the lives, loves and choices of being a woman in Los Angeles. MGM presents this moving film in a widescreen edition on DVD.

Facts of the Case

Things You Can Tell Just By Looking At Her is about several women's lives and the choices they make. Each story weaves its way into a different one as the film progresses.

Things You Can Tell Just By Looking At Her opens with Dr. Elaine Keener (Close), who is taking care of an elderly woman. She is wrestling with a sense of emptiness. Dr. Keener has her tarot cards read by Christine (Flockhart) who is a gifted fortuneteller. Christine's home life consists of grieving and caring for her dying lover Lilly (Valeria Golino, Hot Shots!). In another part of town, a single mother, Rose (Baker), is hesitant about getting to know her new neighbor, Albert (Danny Woodburn, Seinfeld), who is a dwarf.

At a local bank, Rebecca (Hunter) is shocked to hear that she is six weeks pregnant with her married lover's (Hines) child. She knows what she wants, or does she? Kathy (Brenneman) is an L.A. detective who also struggles with being single while taking care of her blind sister Carol (Diaz). Carol also hopes for love, and thinks she may find it in Walter (Matt Craven, A Few Good Men), who has a blind child.

Each must come to a monumental crossroads that will alter and change their lives forever.

The Evidence

Maybe I'm getting soft in my old age. Maybe I've had an epiphany about chick flicks. Maybe I'm just having an off day. Either way, I enjoyed Things You Can Tell Just By Looking At Her much more than I thought I would. Who'd suspect that someone who believes that National Lampoon's Vacation is the pinnacle of cinema would be moved by a little sappy drama about the lives of a bunch of single ladies?

Things You Can Tell Just By Looking At Her is put together so that each story interlocks with another. Different characters are spotted in different lives. Much like Lawrence Kasdan's Grand Canyon, Things You Can Tell Just By Looking At Her offers an inside look at how other people's actions can make undeniable ripples in other people's lives.

The script is really nothing new. Things You Can Tell Just By Looking At Her could just as easily have been a movie playing on Lifetime than a theatrical feature. Either way, the film still packs an emotional wallop that many viewers will enjoy. The character portrayals are all exceptional, the standout being Holly Hunter as the confused Rebecca. Hunter has such a keen eye for emotion that it's easy to see why she has been nominated three times (and won once) for an Academy Award. Her character first comes off as self-serving and cold. As the vignettes moves forward, we see that Rebecca's demeanor may reflect the choices she's made with the men in her life. Her affair with a Gregory Hines's married character certainly doesn't help her situation. The rest of the cast is very good, especially Glenn Close as a very closed and guarded woman, and Amy Brenneman as a detective who finds that being lonely is not as bad as being lonely with a sister in the next bedroom who is making whoopee with her new date. Calista Flockhart is also good, though as usual she looks like she weighs the same as an anorexic parakeet.

Director/writer Rodrigo "you mean a guy made this?" Garcio steadies a sensitive hand over his script, and though there are a few injections of humor, this is mostly a somber and studied tale of that baffling creature men know as "women." Because I feel the viewer is entitled to a second opinion, I am handing over this review to my friend Debbie, who will now let you know what she thought of the movie:

Debbie: Hi, this is Patrick' hesitant friend Debbie. Patrick thought The Wedding Planner sucked AND his favorite movie is Re-Animator. Enough said. I think his opinion is about as substantial as cotton candy.

Okay, thanks Debbie! As you can tell, some people think that I may not be the most appropriate person to review Things You Can Tell Just By Looking At Her. This being the case, I'm sure my readers will be surprised to learn that I thought this was a pretty good movie. Maybe I've just been in the mood to be introspective lately, who knows. Even men will be able to take something away from Things You Can Tell Just By Looking At Her, and maybe we'll even come away with a greater understanding of a woman's psyche. Though knowing guys, the only thing they'll take away with them is the fact that they almost saw one of Holly Hunter's nipples.

Things You Can Tell Just By Looking At Her is presented in anamorphic 1.85:1 widescreen. This is a fairly new release, and the picture quality is very good. Flesh tones and colors were bright and natural, with only a small amount of edge enhancement seen. Blacks looked very solid, and although there were a few spaces where it looked gray, overall this is a very well done transfer by MGM.

Audio is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 (English and Spanish), as well as Dolby Surround 2.0 (French). The 5.1 track is not very aggressive, though there isn't any need for it to be. This is very much a character driven drama, so most of the action (in the way of dialogue) comes from the front speaker. The rear speakers were utilized during moments when Edward Shearmur's music score became prominent, but otherwise it's a basic, if passable, audio track. I'm guessing the French Surround 2.0 track is good, though I don't speak French. If you do, please let me know how it is and I will make sure you send you a complimentary "thank you croissant."

The only extra feature available is an original theatrical trailer presented in widescreen. As trailers go, this one is actually very well done, just like the movie it emulates.

The Rebuttal Witnesses

One problem that I encountered while viewing Things You Can Tell Just By Looking At Her is that it wasn't long enough. "Holy cow, Judge Patrick," you may be saying to yourself, "YOU out of everyone wanted this movie to be longer?" Well, yes. I found that the stories could have used some expounding. It would have been interesting to see Glenn Close's character lengthened. An expansion on the relationship between Gregory Hines and Holly Hunter would also have been fascinating to watch. Otherwise, my complaints for Things You Can Tell Just By Looking At Her are minimal. This very moving movie may just be worth your time, even if you love football and your name is "Bubba." MGM could have added a few more features to the disc, but overall it's a decent package with well-done audio and video supplements.

Closing Statement

Things You Can Tell Just By Looking At Her is certainly worth the rental price. You may even want to put down the money and add this title to your DVD library. With very nice audio and video specs, as well as an excellent script and well done performances, Things You Can Tell Just By Looking At Her is a great film, and I can tell just by look...

Uh, never mind.

The Verdict

Acquitted on all charges, but given a light slap on the wrist for a lack of sufficient extra features.

Review content copyright © 2001 Patrick Naugle; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Video: 95
Audio: 86
Extras: 30
Acting: 97
Story: 95
Judgment: 88

Perp Profile
Studio: MGM
Video Formats:
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (French)

Subtitles:
* French
* Spanish

Running Time: 109 Minutes
Release Year: 2000
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13

Distinguishing Marks
* Original Theatrical Trailer

Accomplices
* IMDb
http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0210358/combined