In writer-director Joan Micklin Silver’s endearing adaptation of Ann Beattie’s celebrated novel, Chilly Scenes of Winter (1979), Charles (John Heard), a bored office worker, falls in love with Laura (Mary Beth Hurt) when she is separated from her husband, Ox (Mark Metcalf); when she returns to the appropriately named fellow, Charles makes it his life’s work to get her back, aided, abetted, and occasionally hindered by a sensational cast of eccentric friends and relatives, played by the likes of Peter Riegert, Kenneth McMillan, Nora Heflin, and the great Gloria Grahame.
"Because I don't want no for an answer."
Relationships are tricky business. With the delicate balance of individual needs, they're actually closer to prolonged negotiations than the sweeping romance most stories portray them as. That isn't to say there isn't heated, passionate romance, but when things move towards a more day-to-day grind, it's about the duality of the partnership. It's about how both people feel, not just one person. 1979's 'Chilly Scenes of Winter' written and directed by Joan Micklin Silver starring John Heard and Mary Beth Hurt is an honest, romantically funny look at relationships and the work it takes to maintain them - even if the romance has ended.
Charles (John Heard) works a dead-end job as a civil servant in Salt Lake City. His life changes the day he meets his office filing clerk Laura (Mary Beth Hurt). The attraction is obvious, immediate, and Charles can't help himself from asking herself out right away. The problem is Laura is married to former quarterback-turned-real estate man Ox (Mark Metcalf). Separated from Ox, Charles works his charms and convinces Laura to go out with him. A flirtation turns into quick romance and the pair move in together. Like a candle lit at both ends, the romance burns out when Laura decides to go back to her husband. After months of depression, Charles concocts a series of hair-brained schemes to win her away from Ox once and for all.
The nice part about the story of 'Chilly Scenes of Winter' is that even with a male character in the lead, it's a relatable experience. I've you've ever been in a relationship where you were the more committed one of the pair, you'll instantly come to understand the point of view of Charles. He was the one who was head over heals blindly in love. Mary Beth Hurt's Laura wasn't. When that relationship ends, all Charles has left are the feelings. Those rose-colored glasses often blur the truth of the matter - that maybe it was just an infatuation and not really love at all.
While the film mostly plays as a sort of romantic comedy, the structure is more of a dramatic character study of what happens when the relationship ends. To a certain degree, Charles' antics are a bit endearing, but at the same time, he's a bit creepy. When you see him drive past Laura and her husband's home in the dead of night to watch until they shut their lights off is an act of sad unrequited love. But when he keeps finding excuses to go back there, it moves from being sad to creepy. It's the sort of situation where you want to take the guy by the shirt collars, slap him upside the head and tell him to get over it.
There are some humorous charms to 'Chilly Scenes of Winter,' the show is a fairly serious and honest look at the end of a relationship. You can love or hate Charles, the film keeps things open for debate on that, but at the same time the things he does the experiences he has as he tries to win Laura back are relatable. Love, or at least, the idea of love makes people do stupid things. 'Chilly Scenes of Winter' definitely takes the more optimistic approach to this sort of story, but at the same time, there is an honesty to the flick that things don't always work out the way you hope. 'Chilly Scenes of Winter' may not be the most romantic comedy of the ages, it may not be something you routinely turn to like 'When Harry Met Sally,' but the film is a tasteful, earnest entry in a crowded genre.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Chilly Scenes of Winter' arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Twilight Time and is limited to a run of 3000 copies. The disc is pressed onto a Region Free BD-25 disc and is housed in a standard clear Blu-ray case. The disc loads directly to a static image main menu featuring traditional navigation options. Also included with this release is a booklet containing stills from the film and a terrific essay by film historian Julie Kirgo.
Arriving with a fresh 1.85:1 1080p transfer, 'Chilly Scenes of Winter' may not be the most colorful movie ever made, but it gets high marks for what it has working for it. For starters, detail levels are particularly impressive as there is a stable and consistent grain field present. Colors maintain that brown-tan color scheme of the late 70s/early 80s where primaries don't get a lot of play. When reds and blues do appear they offer a welcome presence in front of the snow-covered landscapes. Considering this film was shot in Salt Lake City, there really isn't much scenery to appreciate, even with the Rocky Mountains in such proximity. Black levels are deep and inky and stable allowing for a terrific sense of depth and dimension to the image. The only problem mark I can bring up is a close-up shot of John Heard late in the film, you'll know it when you see it. Blacks look particularly crushed with heavy grain and lifeless colors. Thankfully it's brief; lasting maybe two seconds, but it does cause one to blink and wonder what just happened to an otherwise perfect image transfer. It's probably just a poorly maintained insert shot, but it's pretty glaring. Otherwise, this is a beautiful looking transfer that fans should be pleased with.
'Chilly Scenes of Winter' comes with a solid English DTS-HD MA 1.0 audio mix. Dialogue comes through clean and clear throughout. Sound effects have a natural quality to them providing a sense of space and atmosphere even through a single channel. Imaging is obviously restrained but there is an amount of directionality to the mix that is appreciable. Scoring by composer Ken Lauber is present, but very minimal more akin to atmospheric mood music that doesn't ever really dominate the mix. Since this is mostly a conversational affair, once you have your levels set, you should be in great shape without any need to adjust the volume.
Audio Commentary: Featuring Screenwriter/Director Joan Micklin Silver and Producer Amy Robinson provide an engaging and informative commentary about the film without any glaring drop offs or simply describing what is happening on the screen.
Original Theatrical Trailer: (HD 1:45)
'Chilly Scenes of Winter' may not redefine the romantic comedy genre, but instead, it provides an honest if perhaps a little sad look at romance and how it can come to an end - even when one person in the relationship doesn't want it to. It may not be laugh-out-loud funny, but it's got an endearing quality to it that is endearing. Twilight Time has done a solid job bringing the film to Blu-ray with a terrific A/V presentation. Extras may be a bit slim, but the film in of itself is worth watching. Fans should be very happy with this presentation. Worth a look.