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Case Number 01312

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Sweet November

Warner Bros. // 2001 // 128 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Magistrate Terry Coli (Retired) // August 15th, 2001

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All Rise...

The Charge

She just needed a month to change his life forever.

Opening Statement

Sweet November debuted in theaters last February to frosty reviews and audience apathy. The film re-teams Keanu Reeves and Charlize Theron (who worked together previously in The Devil's Advocate) under the direction of Brit Pat O'Connor (Circle Of Friends). Sweet November is actually a remake of the 1968 film of the same title which starred Sandy Dennis and Anthony Newley. Did the film get a fair chance in the theater? We'll give Sweet November a second chance on DVD thanks to Warner Brothers.

Facts of the Case

Sara Deever (Theron) is the perfect woman: she's sexy, smart, beautiful, and she is wholly devoted to her man. Even better, she only requires a one-month commitment. Nelson Moss (Reeves) is the quirky Sara's November project. He's an ambitious advertising exec who doesn't have time for anything in life except for work. Sara hassles Nelson like a deranged stalker, even though he wants nothing to do with her. When Nelson loses his job, he finally agrees to move in with her for the month. Sara spends their time trying to free Nelson's inner spirit, but there is a catch. Sara's rule is that at the end of November, Nelson must go the way of her past monthly flings—out the door. But when Nelson falls in love with her, he learns the sad reason for Sara's unique lifestyle.

The Evidence

The stale synopsis above actually makes Sweet November sound more intriguing than it is. Unfortunately, "Sara's secret" was spilled in the theatrical trailer and TV spots that ran prior to the movie's February release. For those of you that didn't catch them, or for those who cannot easily guess what the secret is, I won't spoil it here. But it is another example (along with, say, Cast Away) of a trailer that gives away too much information. Sweet November is one film that really could've used the shock value of its twist. As is, the enlightened viewer is reluctant to make an emotional investment in Sara and that's primarily where the movie fails.

However, that's not all that's wrong with Sweet November. Never having seen the 1968 Sandy Dennis version of the film, I cannot say whether it actually warranted a remake. I'm guessing that it must've been more exciting than this version. The film repeats itself over and over again, as Nelson tries to make an emotional connection with Sara. He leaves, he comes back, she kicks him out, he comes back; it's all incredibly frustrating. When the most interesting part of a movie is the toy boat race, you know you're in trouble. The characters are poorly drawn. Nelson is a brilliant businessman, but he is so dumb that he has to cheat on a DMV test. Sara thinks the way to preserve her legacy is by sleeping with buttoned-down men in hopes of opening them up to the wonderful things in life.

Keanu Reeves really tries hard with the material, but he has less range than a Fisher Price Walkie-Talkie. He doesn't shift believably between hard-ass and lover, and most of the time he actually seems bored. He really should stick to action films. Charlize Theron is better, though the character limits her as well; she just comes off as the poor producer's Meg Ryan. Theron and Reeves have absolutely no chemistry in this film, which is surprising since this is their second cinematic effort together.

Sweet November contains a very nice transfer. The film is presented in its original aspect ratio, an anamorphic 1.85:1. There is very little to complain about with this print. Colors are solid, black levels are good, and there is very little grain or blemish to be seen. I noticed no instances of edge enhancement. Warner Brothers has done an outstanding job with this picture.

Likewise, the Dolby 5.1 audio mix is of good quality too. Though, Sweet November doesn't require much in the way of a surround experience, the few outdoor and crowd scenes give a nice range of sound. Dialogue is crisp with no distortion throughout the film. Also included is a French 5.1 track as well as English and French subtitles.

Sweet November offers little in way of special features, almost as if Warner knew this was a dud no matter how you wrapped it up. There is a "Sweet November: From The Heart" featurette that runs about ten minutes, and sports interviews with Reeves, Theron and O'Connor. If you do want to watch Sweet November, save this feature until afterwards—it literally gives away the ending. Also available is a theatrical trailer presented in a widescreen format. Interestingly, this is a different trailer than the original trailer, and it isn't as revealing. Someone at Warner must've wised up. Too little, too late if you ask me. If you still want more, there are some cast and crew filmographies.

The Rebuttal Witnesses

When I cannot find anything good to say about a movie, I usually riff on the supporting actors. In this case, Greg Germann of "Ally McBeal" is very funny as Vince, Nelson's co-worker. Jason Issacs (The Patriot) also gives an amusing performance as Sara's transvestite neighbor Chaz/Cherry.

And that's about it.

Closing Statement

Though Warner Brothers has given Sweet November impressive treatment in terms of audio and video, there is little to recommend about the film itself. Slow-moving and emotionally unsatisfying, it'll make you pray for December.

The Verdict

Guilty, as Sweet November leaves a bitter taste…

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Scales of Justice

Video: 95
Audio: 95
Extras: 70
Acting: 70
Story: 60
Judgment: 65

Perp Profile

Studio: Warner Bros.
Video Formats:
• 1.85:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
Subtitles:
• English
• French
Running Time: 128 Minutes
Release Year: 2001
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
Genres:
• Drama
• Romance

Distinguishing Marks

• "Sweet November: From The Heart" featurette
• Theatrical Trailer
• Cast/Filmmaker Profiles








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