[box cover]

Sweet Hearts Dance

Sweet Hearts Dance wants to be a novel — unfortunately for us, it's a movie. Released in 1988, it's a dull story about the troubled marriage between two former high school sweethearts in Vermont who are now old and laden with kids and trying to find their way. The story is presented episodically, with various chapter headings in mock-Whitman Sampler graphics, keyed to seasonal rituals, and with tired pop tunes in the background. Call it The Small Chill. The story may well have been meaningful to credited writer Ernest Thompson or TV-movie specialist Robert Greenwald, but what is conveyed feels like a tempest in a teapot. The film seems to want to make a case for commitment, but it keeps making marriage and relationships seem like such a nightmare that the argument is one-sided. Don Johnson is the husband, repulsively called Wiley Boon, one of those improbably names only people in movies or novels have, and his wife is played by Susan Sarandon. Justin Henry plays one of the couple's sons, while the amusing Jeff Daniels is sadly cast as the nerdy teacher best friend, with Elizabeth Perkins as the supposedly slightly less-attractive best friend who is starting to date Daniels's character. The main issue is the story of the marriage between the privileged leads. But what the hell are they fighting about? It's never clear and just plain boring. Don Johnson is, or at least was, a screen presence with great potential, in the Burt Reynolds mode, but here he has nothing clear to sink his teeth into, while Sarandon is just angry, one of those knowing scolds American movies are so good at making us think we should like. Her character doesn't even really seem married to Johnson, and when they finally get back together in the end ("I'll always love you, Wiley Boon"), you're not really sure what all the fuss was about. Columbia TriStar's Sweet Hearts Ball DVD is adequate for an indifferently photographed movie (by Tak Fujimoto). And for some reason, Columbia has seen fit to offer the film in full frame (1.33:1) even though the box says that it is "remastered in high definition." Audio is in Dolby Digital 2.0, with English and French subtitles. Supplements include trailers for My Best Friend's Wedding, About Last Night, and Stepmom. Keep-case.
—D. K. Holm

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