Thursday, March 15, 2007

RESTORATION (Miramax 1995) Buena Vista Home Video

Michael Hoffman’s Restoration (1995) is a brilliant melodrama set at the cusp of the age of enlightenment. The film stars Robert Downey Jr. as Robert Merivel, a physician who cares more for carousing with the bar wenches than he does in his oath and dedication to healing the sick. But Merivel’s prospects are about to change when he is summoned to court by King Charles II (Sam Neill) to tend to his prized Cocker Spaniel. Doubting his faith in medicine, even to perform this meager task, Merivel does indeed cure the dog of its skin rash and is shortly thereafter appointed the royal physician.

However, Merivel abuses his post most readily with infantile drinking games and barbs wielded against his fellow aristocrats, and, by carousing with the King’s mistress, Cecilia Clemence (Polly Walker). The exposure of this affair casts Merivel from the king’s favor and, in fact, from the court he has come to call his home. What shall he do for excitement now? How will life ever supply satisfaction and meaning that, thus far, has haplessly eluded him?

Sumptuously mounted and lavishly produced, director Hoffman takes heed not to allow the gargantuan artifice to overpower what is essentially an intimate story of one man discovering his true calling. Downey is brilliant as the foppish physician turned genuine man of honor by the unexpected romantic longings of Katherine (Meg Ryan), a simpleton in an asylum who is transformed by Merivel’s compassion. This is exceptional film-making, wrought with finely textured and adult performances throughout. The cast is inspired and so is the screenplay by Rupert Walters, based on the novel by Rose Tremain.

Buena Vista’s DVD presentation is rather disappointing; not anamorphic, though widescreen, with dated colors and a general lack of tonality in the mid-range register. Contrast levels are often quite weak. Blacks are more gray than black. Whites acquire a slightly dull characteristic. Age related artifacts and edge enhancement appear sporadically throughout. Fine details are often nicely realized, though lost in darker scene. The audio is stereo surround. A production featurette is the only extra.

FILM RATING (out of 5 - 5 being the best)



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