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Things You Can Tell Just by Looking at Her

Things you can tell just by watching this movie: A good cast goes a long way, Showtime made a smart move picking up this understated drama, and Calista Flockhart really does look a lollipop with feet. Ally McBeal's artificial tics and gimmicks aside, though, the woman can act, a talent she shares with co-stars Glenn Close, Holly Hunter, Cameron Diaz, Amy Brenneman, Kathy Baker, and Valeria Golino. In Things You Can Tell Just by Looking at Her, a collection of loosely connected vignettes about women looking for love and happiness in L.A., writer/director Rodgrigo Garcia gives all of these actresses the chance to show off their acting chops. In fact, it's their ability that elevates the movie above its weepy "chick flick" stepsisters airing every night on Lifetime. These ladies mean business, and it shows, from Cameron Diaz's uncharacteristically dramatic turn as witty, cynical, blind piano teacher Carol, to Holly Hunter's raw portrayal of Rebecca, a career woman who finds it harder than she expected to turn down a chance at motherhood. The other characters include Dr. Elaine Keener (Close), a lonely woman grasping at the straws of her relationship with a younger man; Christine Taylor (Flockhart) and her cancer-wracked lover Lilly (Golino), who struggle through the painful present while remembering the joy of their first meeting; Rose (Baker), a single mother flustered by her attraction to the new man across the street; and Kathy (Brenneman), a tomboyish detective who lets her sense of duty get in the way of happiness. The film has its weak points — most notably the cartoonish character of Nancy (Penelope Allen), a foul-mouthed harridan of a homeless woman who helps Hunter's Rebecca see her real self — but as a showcase for quiet, nuanced acting, it can't be beat. Despite winning an award at Cannes, Things bypassed the theater to land on Showtime; now it finds its way to DVD thanks to MGM Home Entertainment. The sun-bleached L.A. world of the movie looks great in the 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer (a full-screen version is also available), and the Dolby Digital 5.1 audio is impressive. The only special feature is the original theatrical trailer, but given the number of excellent performances in the movie itself, what's an extra here or there? This is a disc to get for the movie, not the "stuff" that could come with it. Keep-case.
—Betsy Bozdech

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