'My Own Love Song' is a strange hodgepodge of a movie. In fact, in many ways it plays like the bastard love child of a typical, clichéd Lifetime original production and a more creative, surrealistic silver screen fantasy a la Tim Burton's 'Big Fish.' You know, as I typed that, it actually started to sound sort of cool, in a crazy, bizarre kind of way. Unfortunately though, it's not. It's really not. While some films in the past have been able to successfully blend differing styles and tones to form a greater whole, here the combination just makes for a terribly uneven, disjointed, random, yet somehow thoroughly predictable disappointment of a movie.
The plot focuses on a paraplegic singer, Jane (Renee Zellweger), and her mentally unstable friend Joey (Forest Whitaker), as they embark on a road trip to visit Jane's estranged young son. Along the way the dysfunctional pair meets up with a variety of eccentric characters and run into numerous conflicts and setbacks. Well wait -- let me clarify -- the dysfunctional pair meets up with a variety of pointless, underwritten, eccentric characters and run into numerous, incredibly out of place, nonsensical and completely unengaging conflicts and setbacks.
The core of the story hinges on the relationship between Jane and Joey and this sadly becomes a problem. While some attempt is made to forge a meaningful bond to link these damaged individuals, their friendship is poorly written and never fully realized. Most of their interactions amount to little more than the two screaming at each other, and despite their hardships, neither one is ever particularly likeable or engaging. The performances from Zellweger and Whitaker aren't necessarily bad, but they're appallingly miscalculated. Whitaker's attempts at portraying a mentally unstable individual who sees "angels" and "ghosts" comes across as overacted, deliberate, and at times just silly. Zellweger's character also suffers from similarly misjudged and forced attributes, which may indicate some poor direction steering these usually strong performers.
In addition to the weaknesses inherent in the two lead characters, the film suffers from too many conflicting tones and styles. The overarching plot and earlier parts of the story resemble something you'd see in a typical movie of the week and the plot gradually introduces certain surrealistic aspects and quirky oddities that clash horribly with the rest of the proceedings. This is most evident in the two main characters' interactions with several peculiar individuals on the road, who all end up being utterly useless. All of their stories are poorly constructed, unclear, and meaningless.
One character, Billie (Madeline Zima), is a perfect example. Joey meets her on a bus, and after some awkward dialogue, she reveals that her husband has gone missing. That's all, just missing. Well, that's a bit… vague, but fine. From here though, we cut to Jane and Joey eating a nice, cozy, intimate dinner with the young girl's family. The young girl they just met on a bus literally minutes ago. Seriously, they're all eating around the table like they've been friends for life. Later on in the film Billie gets a random phone call from her husband, who has magically reappeared from wherever the hell he's been, and in the blink of an eye the character just exits the movie. Almost all of the supporting players have similar random and muddled arcs that come to no actual conclusion.
Don't even get me started on Nick Nolte's character. He plays an insane musician who apparently lives in a shack in the middle of nowhere and feeds our characters some psychedelic brownies before rambling on about the devil and the Garden of Eden in his deep, raspy, trademark voice. All of these oddball interactions ultimately amount to nothing more than worthless distractions from an already lackluster primary plot. I actually found myself rewinding the movie from time to time to make sure that I didn't miss something that would explain the complete lack of logic that takes us from point A to point B, but then after discovering that I had indeed not missed anything, I became angry at myself for letting the movie waste even more of my time.
As mentioned earlier, director Olivier Dahan seems to be going for a 'Big Fish' like aura of whimsy with these random detours and stylistic choices but they simply don't fit with what's already been established. The form of the movie itself can be interesting, featuring some impressive reframing long shots, surreal lighting designs, artistic compositions, and animated giant birds (yes you read that right), but like the mishmash of tones in the script, they too just jumble into a mess of unfocused filmmaking.
I'm still not quite sure what to think of 'My Own Love Song.' On the one hand this is a by-the-numbers story of emotional healing that never really succeeds, and on the other hand it’s a visually creative but utterly meaningless surrealistic road-trip that never really succeeds. I think the take home message here is that the film never really succeeds, leading to a miscalculated misfire that wastes some potentially interesting ideas.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Inception Media Group brings the film to Blu-ray on a single BD-25 disc housed in a standard case. After some logos and warnings the disc transitions to a simple motion menu.
The movie is presented in a 1080p/AVC transfer in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Despite some intermittent creativity in its photography, the video is pretty underwhelming.
The source itself is nice and clean, with some thin, natural grain frequently visible. Detail is decent but rarely impressive. True instances of depth are uncommon and the film mostly has a flat appearance. Colors are good, however, giving off some vibrant pop from time to time, especially in the scenes where the film veers toward surrealistic imagery (as crazy and out of place as it is, Nolte's "Garden of Eden" scene is pretty cool looking). Contrast is good, but black levels are an area of major concern. Blacks fluctuate pretty wildly from scene to scene and frequently appear quite elevated with a milky gray and sometimes even slightly green tinge. This leads to a very washed out appearance in low light and nighttime scenes.
'My Own Love Song' doesn't look completely terrible, but its lack of detail and dimensionality coupled with its elevated black levels, make for a fairly lackluster video presentation.
The film is provided with a standard English Dolby Digital 5.1 track with no subtitle options. Even with a score written by Bob Dylan, this is about as basic as an audio mix can get.
Dialogue is nice and clean and… well that's about it. Directionality of any kind rarely comes into play, and surround use is essentially nonexistent. Dynamic range is flatlined, and bass is faint and subdued. Balance between the elements is good, though most of the time there really isn’t much to keep balanced. The movie places a fair amount of emphasis on music, and Bob Dylan's score, with newly written tracks performed by various cast members throughout, sounds just fine but pales in comparison to his best work.
Though there are a few momentary bits of life, this track plays more like an average stereo or even mono mix than a fully fledged 5.1 experience. While I'm not sure it would have made much of a difference in this case, a lossless presentation would have also been appreciated. Basically, this the definition of a middle-of-the-road audio mix.
'My Own Love Song' is a mess of a movie that suffers from misjudged, uneven scripting, directing, and performances. There is some creativity and skill evident in certain sequences, but none of it adds up to a worthwhile whole. The video and audio are both lackluster and with only one brief supplement, this is a pretty sad disc.