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Case Number 00259

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A River Runs Through It

Sony // 1992 // 124 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Judge Margo Reasner (Retired) // January 11th, 2000

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All Rise...

Editor's Note

Our review of A River Runs Through It (Blu-Ray), published July 29th, 2009, is also available.

The Charge

My father was very sure about certain matters pertaining to the universe. To him, all good things, trout as well as eternal salvation, came by grace…and grace comes by art…and art does not come easy.

Opening Statement

Although the term "masterpiece" is a rather lofty label to live up to A River Runs Through It meets the challenge easily. It was recognized by Academy Award Nominations for Best Music (Original Score) and Best Writing (Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium) and won the Oscar for Best Cinematography in 1993. Anyone who likes serious dramas should automatically add this DVD to their collection.

The Evidence

Robert Redford worked with Norman Maclean, the author of the critically acclaimed novella A River Runs Through It, to make the movie true to the literary work. Richard Friedenberg was chosen to write the screenplay (which received an Oscar nomination and won the USC Scripter Award) and the first draft was approved of by Maclean shortly before his death in 1990. Redford then went on to direct what would turn out to be one of my all-time favorite movies.

The story is a somewhat autobiographical account of Norman Maclean's life, complete with flyfishing in the beautiful wilderness of early 1900s Montana. Norman's father (Tom Skerritt, Alien, Top Gun, Poison Ivy) was a Presbyterian minister and his younger brother Paul (Brad Pitt, Interview with the Vampire, Meet Joe Black, Fight Club) was recklessly adventurous. Norman (Craig Sheffer, The Grave, Head Above Water, Executive Power) and Paul, as boys, learn not only religion from their father; there are many lessons in flyfishing as well because Reverend Maclean feels that only through learning God's rhythms can they regain the power and beauty that man has, in general, lost. It is from these fishing lessons that the boys learn a love of nature and her gifts as well as developing a standard by which to judge all people who they were to meet in life.

From the moment that this movie begins you know from the melodic sound of Redford's voice narrating Norman's thoughts that you have stumbled onto something very different and special. As you continue to watch the music score and cinematography confirm that this film was a labor of love. Every scene looks as though it is a beautiful painting of a clean and fresh outdoor scene—the river bends at just the right spot, the sun glints off of the water at just the right angle. The story is told in a slow and natural way with the music score setting the perfect tone. We follow the fortunes of the Maclean family through Norman's eyes and Redford's voice and the story has a genuine ring of truth to it.

Although all the acting in this film is absolutely top-notch, the performance by Brad Pitt stands out. It's not that he does anything terribly noteworthy like having a limp or a difficult foreign accent, but rather that he plays his part with genuine perfection and believability. He makes us like him (as his family did) even though we see that the path he is taking isn't necessarily the best one for him (as again his family did). There is one scene in the film that he captures his part perfectly in (as well as being one of the most beautifully put together sequence of scenes ever filmed); it is when the two boys go fishing with their father at the end of the movie. "Thank you, o merciful professor of poetry and trout," he tells his brother and then goes on to do battle with one of the largest fish of his life.

The picture is presented in full screen as well as 1.85:1 aspect ratio enhanced for widescreen TVs. The video transfer lives up to Columbia's high standards and is virtually perfect on a 16x9 set. The picture presentation is so nice that the couple of bad editing glitches that have always been present in the film were noticeable. The sound is presented in 2-channel Dolby Surround and is more than adequate for the film's needs. (The rapids sequence was surprisingly realistic.) In the extras department we are given three trailers (A River Runs Through It, Seven Years in Tibet, and The Devil's Own) and talent files for Robert Redford, Tom Skerritt, Brad Pitt, Craig Sheffer, Brenda Blethyn and Emily Lloyd. I will add that the menus were very nicely done and in keeping with the tone of the film.

The Rebuttal Witnesses

The slow pace of this film is going to lose some viewers looking for more action and the middle part of the film dealing with Norman's love interest may lose viewers that like the rest of the film. However, if you like drifting down a river and watching the scenery float by on a warm sunny afternoon then this film will be for you; if you like shooting the rapids while hanging on for dear life then you might want to pass on this one. There also could have been more extras on this DVD, but for those wanting more information on the making of this film you can purchase Shadow Casting: The Making of a River Runs Through It on DVD as well.

Closing Statement

This is a beautifully written, directed, and acted film that should be the staple of any serious film buff's library. A highly recommended purchase.

The Verdict

Columbia is totally acquitted even though more extras would have been nice.

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Scales of Justice

Video: 98
Audio: 91
Extras: 70
Acting: 98
Story: 100
Judgment: 91

Perp Profile

Studio: Sony
Video Formats:
• 1.85:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (French)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (Spanish)
• Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (Portuguese)
Subtitles:
• English
• French
• Portuguese
• Spanish
Running Time: 124 Minutes
Release Year: 1992
MPAA Rating: Rated PG
Genre:
• Drama

Distinguishing Marks

• Theatrical Trailers
• Talent Files

Accomplices

• IMDb








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