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Case Number 27631: Small Claims Court

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Modern Romance (1981)

Sony // 1981 // 93 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // August 12th, 2014

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All Rise...

Little Known Fact: Judge Patrick Naugle is, in fact, Super Dave Osborne.

Editor's Note

Our review of Modern Romance, published March 30th, 2006, is also available.

The Charge

If it's not love, what is it?

The Case

David Cole (Albert Brooks, Finding Nemo) is an editor in Hollywood who is struggling with his on-again, off-again girlfriend, Mary Harvard (Kathryn Harrold, Into the Night). When David decides to end their relationship (again) during a dinner date, Mary storms out of the restaurant leaving David to ponder if he's done the right thing. David attempts to move on through work and dating, but finds that he can't stop thinking about Mary. David makes yet another attempt to woo back the woman that he (thinks he) loves. Will Mary and David be able to make it through their rocky courtship?

Everyone has that stash of movies that they can watch over and over again. Often they're comedies or feel good films, movies that you can practically recite line-for-line. Over the course of my life I have amassed a small cache of films that feel like prized possessions; movies that I can't image living without. One of those films is writer/director/star Albert Brooks' hilarious Modern Romance. When you ask comedians what some of their favorite films are, I have the sneaking suspicion that this one is at the top of a lot of their lists.

Brooks' style of comedy is not for everyone. His delivery is so dry that it's like standing in the middle of the Sahara desert. Over the course of his career Albert Brooks has directed seven films, and while some are better than others, all of them are well worth seeking out. From dropping out of society (Lost in America) to dropping in on the woman who raised him (Mother) to dropping dead and entering the afterlife (Defending Your Life); Brooks' films are filled with sharp wit, out of control neuroses, and a lot of hearty laughs.

Modern Romance sounds like your average, run-of-the-mill romantic comedy, but fair warning: it's not. This is, after all, Albert Brooks we're talking about. Modern Romance is about the jealously and eagerness that can eat away at a relationship. Instead of starting out with some clichéd "meet cute," the beginning of the film heads full bore into Robert and Mary's break-up, subsequent reunion, and break-up again. Brooks never goes for the easy laugh; in fact, the comedy is often a one man show. Brooks spends a lot of the film on his own, acting to a bird, a record player, or an answering machine. During one amusing sequence, David is given Quaaludes by his assistant editor and takes them—ALL of them—and is thrown into a downward spiral. While this doesn't sound very funny, Brooks' talent is his ability to make it funny.

There are some amusing supporting performances, most notably by the late Bruno Kirby as David's co-worker, director James L. Brooks as the director of the film David is editing, and George Kennedy as himself, who shows that he's got a pretty good sense of humor. Brooks' brother, Super Dave Osborne (Bob Einstein in real life), makes a very funny cameo as a sporting goods salesman who hilariously bullies David into buying the most expensive athletic gear in his store. Although each of these actors shines in their roles, generally speaking Modern Romance is really Brooks' and Harrold's show. Albert Brooks is essentially playing an exaggerated version of himself; like Woody Allen, it's hard to see Brooks as anyone but Brooks. Harrold is little more than eye candy most of the time, generally grousing at David's often stalker-like advances (even if she ultimately loves him).

Modern Romance is presented in 1.85:1 anamoprhic widescreen. This is a Warner made-to-order title and I'm pretty sure it's got the same transfer as the original 2006 DVD release by Sony. Colors are mostly vibrant and black levels appear solid. The image itself is in good shape, but I wouldn't say it really pops off the screen. The soundtrack is presented in Dolby 2.0 Surround in English and does the job that's required, and little else. To be fair, this is a very front heavy, dialogue driven film. There are no extras.

Modern Romance is a movie I unabashedly love and want to share with everyone, but I also understand it won't be to everybody's taste. Brooks humor often comes from a dark place, and if you prefer your laughs with a side of slapstick or silliness, Modern Romance may not fit the bill. Even with those reservations, I'd suggest giving the film at least one viewing because if you like Albert Brooks' style of humor, you're going to fall in love it.

The Verdict

Easily not guilty!

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 97

Perp Profile

Studio: Sony
Video Formats:
• 1.85:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
• None
Running Time: 93 Minutes
Release Year: 1981
MPAA Rating: Rated R
• Comedy
• Romance
• Romantic Comedies

Distinguishing Marks

• None


• IMDb

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