What do you care what other people think?
Infinity is a small, quiet little film about a man who was anything but small and quiet.
In 1965 physicist Richard Feynman won the Nobel Prize for his creation of "Feynman Diagrams." "Feynman Diagrams" are diagrams that are graphic analogues of the mathematical expressions needed to describe the behavior of systems of interacting particles. What does that mean you may ask? I have no idea but if what I have read about Feynman is true, he could have explained it so even I would have not been too confused.
The Richard Feynman that thought all of that up was a grown-up and a mature individual. As a film, Infinity is not concerned with any of that. The story here is about Feynman's college years and his nine-year relationship and eventual marriage to Arline Greenbaum.
Feynman and Greenbaum met while he was an undergraduate at MIT and quickly fell in love. They continued to date but put off marriage because both felt that they were too poor, plus they thought, what is the hurry? All that changes when Arline becomes seriously ill with tuberculosis and Feynman is offered a job in New Mexico working on the Los Alamos project. Against the strong objections of his parents the two marry. Bear in mind, that in it's day TB was a kind of hushed-up disease, with patients often put into sanitariums, hidden from the prying eyes of the world. This institution would make a sense of normalcy and a feeling of home a difficult task for the newlyweds to achieve. With all of that, plus the backdrop of war and the tensions of a top-secret military project always in the background, they would still give it a go. They would have a barbecue on the front lawn of the hospital because Arline had a taste for grilled meat or they would indulge Feynman's ever-present curiosity about everything in the world. In short, they do the things that people in love do. It is these simple charms and even more basic pains that the movie deals with. The film laughs, loves and cries. History is merely the cyclorama for this particular love story to play in front of.
Infinity is a slice of life about a different time and place in America. It never pretends to be anything that it is not. It is, a love story, plain and not so simple.
There is a wonderful chemistry between stars Matthew Broderick (Wargames, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Godzilla) and Patricia Arquette (True Romance, Bringing Out the Dead) that carries the film along. They have an easy charm together that conveys the fact that these characters are facing abnormal circumstances and that happiness may well be a fleeting thing.
Casting in a film such as Infinity is key and the movie is blessed with strong support from such actors as Peter Riegert (Animal House, Local Hero), Dori Brenner, Peter Michael Goetz, Zeljko Ivanek and Joyce Van Patten.
Infinity marked the directorial debut of star Matthew Broderick and all I can say is I hope he continues to work behind the camera as well as in front.
Broderick shows a great deal of confidence in his material and cast. Even though very little actually "happens," Broderick keeps the film moving at a brisk pace. His direction is honest and heartfelt without ever becoming maudlin. It is this honesty, this simplicity, that makes Feynman's reaction to his wife's death so heartbreaking and real.
The film is also helped greatly by the cinematography of Toyomichi Kurita. He masterfully captures the haunting images of the American southwest that serves as the backdrop for the second half of Infinity. Bruce Broughton's score evokes all the moods of the film and Brent Capra has done beautiful work with his production design. Infinity is quite obviously a labor of love and everyone contributes.
Infinity is presented in it's original aspect ratio of 1.66:1 and for the most part it looks pretty good. The transfer was not enhanced for 16x9 and that does show in some occasional softness throughout the film. That much said however, detail, is more than acceptable. The beauty of the desert looks lush with colors that are vibrant and alive, skin tones always appear natural looking and are consistent with no bleed. The print that was used is pristine, free of any blemishes or scratches. With the gripe of no anamorphic transfer already stated, the film is probably as good looking as it ever will be.
Infinity is not an action packed shoot 'em up so all the 2.0 Dolby Digital soundtrack needs to do is present the dialogue in a clear fashion. This the mix does. What the actors are saying is always understandable and Broughton's score is heard to very good effect.
The interactive menus are simple and easy to use and the film offers 3 BIOS. Those would be the "special features." Stop. Hold me back. I can't stand the excitement.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
I remember reading about Infinity on one of the online DVD sites and seeing it advertised as having a running commentary with screenwriter Patricia Broderick and director/star/son Matthew. So imagine my surprise and disappointment to find that feature is nowhere to be found. Also advertised was a 5.1 mix, again, nowhere to be found. While the 5.1 mix is no big deal, the missing commentary track is irksome. I would have loved to have heard the Broderick clan's thoughts and ideas on the making of this movie. While the packaging itself makes no mention of those missing pieces, the press release must have. With so much of the DVD market pre-ordering their discs, it is this kind of false advertising that leads to ill will with the disc buying consumer and WinStar is asked to be more careful next time.
Richard Feynman was a truly fascinating man and I would have enjoyed knowing more about his work but that is not what the film sets out to do. So if you are going in expecting a biography of one of the centuries most interesting minds, Infinity may well leave you wanting more.
Once I got over the fact that this was just going to be a romance picture, I was able to settle in and really enjoy it. Broderick really does show great feeling behind the camera and his mother's screenplay is rich with ideas and compassion. They are a tandem that bears watching.
Infinity is that rarest of American films these days. A movie about smart people who care about one another and have interesting things to say. A movie where there are no gunshots, no real special effects and no bad guys. It is a movie that knows where it is going, is very clearheaded about the story it wants to tell and knows exactly how to get to its final destination. Movies such as this are a breath of fresh air.
Hopefully this is one of those movies that gain a solid reputation in its second life. Infinity is well worth your time and at the very least, deserves an evening's rental.
The Verdict All involved with the making of Infinity are found not guilty and are free to go. WinStar is sentenced to 30 days of community service for promising something that they did not deliver on. That's it. Case dismissed.
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