A leukemia patient attempts to end a 20-year feud with her sister to get her bone marrow.
I was surprised I had never seen 'Marvin's Room.' I should have considering it has an all-star cast including Meryl Streep, Diane Keaton, Robert De Niro, and a young Leonardo DiCaprio. After viewing, I can see why this particular movie didn't interest me. Sure it has some solid performances, but it's fairly cheesy and slow from start to finish. And I'm sure Scott McPherson, who wrote the stage play that this was adapted from, would have not been to pleased with the outcome. Sadly, McPherson died in 1992 from AIDS, and Jerry Zaks, another Broadway name, decided to give his take on the story, which was his first feature film.
The story focuses on an estranged family and starts by introducing us to Bessie (Diane Keaton) who is visiting her doctor for a routine checkup. Dr. Wally (Robert De Niro), tells Bessie that she may very well have leukemia and that she will need a bone marrow transplant. Bessie, in an attempt to find a donor calls her sister Lee (Meryl Streep), who she hasn't seen in more than two decades, and tells her the bad news. Streep. who is dealing with problems of her own -- her teenage son Frank (DiCaprio) is setting fires and being admitted to a mental institution -- decides to journey to her Bessie's house with Frank and her younger son to be tested as a potential match.
Upon arrival, Lee realizes that her sister has been taking care of their father Marvin (Hume Croyn), who has severe dementia and is bedridden and needs constant care, along with their Aunt Ruth, who would rather watch her soap operas than go outside. Since both sisters have not seen nor talked with each other in 20 years, things are a bit awkward at first, as they're constantly walking on egg shells around each other, but as the flick progresses, we see this estranged family slowly reform as the characters pour out their hearts and souls.
From any of the posters or DVD/Blu-ray covers of this movie, you'd think this would be some sappy romantic comedy, made only for women, but that's not the case. Instead, we get a slow-moving character driven story with some unusual and brilliant performances by big named actors. Streep won and was nominated for a bunch of awards for her role here. There are some unexpected twists in the tale as well. However, director Zaks uses character development to push the movie forward rather than action beats or thrills, which is fine, but there is no real solution to any conflict. Instead we just have to accept these characters as they are, warts and all. This might work well on stage, but as expanded in a film, I think audiences might expect more closure.
Zaks' direction is nothing out of the ordinary, but Streep's and De Niro's performances are top notch. They are what drives 'Marvin's Room.' DiCaprio also delivers a decent performance right before he shot to super-stardom. Overall, this isn't a bad film by any means. It's just not one you'd want to watch more than once.
One a quick note, this Blu-ray cover has a picture in the lower right hand corner of four people walking on a beach. This image has nothing to do with the film and is not a part of it in a any way. I'm not sure why it's on there, but don't expect people four people walking on a beach during 'Marvin's Room.'
'Marvin's Room' comes with a sub-par 1080p HD transfer presented in 1.78:1 aspect ratio. The detail is fairly sharp, but there are several instances where the image goes soft, particularly in the outdoor scenes. Colors are striking and bold for the most part, with plenty of natural blues and greens, however when we see the lighter shades of whites, yellows, and browns, they tend to be a little washed out, mostly on the interior sequences. Skin tones seems to be natural and smooth as well. Unfortunately, there is a tiny bit of artifacting throughout the film and some image banding as well when some of the actors were moving around. The black levels are deep for the most part, but seem to be lighter in certain scenes, which can be distracting.
This release comes with a DTS-HD 5.1 audio mix as well as a 2.0 stereo option as well. The dialogue is crisp and clear and very easy to understand, which is fortunate since this is a dialogue driven movie. The dynamic range is good as well as the directionality of the voices and sound effects. This is far better than the video presentation. The ambient noises of people chattering in the background and nature sounds come across nicely through the rear speakers, but seems to be a little on the soft side. The music is portrayed well here too, and never drowns out the dialogue. This is a decent audio mix.
'Marvin's Room' has solid performances, but it drags and is ultimately fairly dull. If you're a fan of movies adapted from the stage, then you'll want to see this, but my bet is that once will be enough. The video quality is just average, while the audio presentation is a step above. The sole extra isn't worth watching either. Even with no sub title option, the cheap price-tag this has is still not worth it. I'd rent this first.