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Pick of the Week:
"Husbands and Wives" DVD
Reviewed by Ivana Redwine

Guide Rating -

Length: 108 minutes
MPAA Rating: R for language and a scene of sexuality

Written and directed by Woody Allen, "Husbands and Wives" (1992) is a witty, but edgy, look at romantic relationships between men and women. I got some very big laughs while watching this film at home on Columbia TriStar DVD, but I think the movie also offers lots of insight into human nature, and the picture is not entirely pleasant. Alas, the DVD provides no special features of any consequence, although it does allow you to watch the film in either widescreen (1.85:1) format or full screen (1.33:1) format. I expect the full screen format to be generally preferable on smaller TV sets.

In "Husbands and Wives," Gabe and Judy Roth (Woody Allen and Mia Farrow) are a childless couple who have been married for ten years. The film opens in their Manhattan apartment, where they prepare to go out to dinner with their long-married friends Jack (Sydney Pollack) and Sally (Judy Davis). Gabe, a college teacher and writer, talks to Judy about a talented 20-year-old girl in his class who wrote a fabulous short story titled "Oral Sex in the Age of Deconstruction." When Jack and Sally arrive, they shock the Roths by calmly telling them they plan to divorce.

Soon a work colleague asks Sally out, but their date goes badly when he decides to take her to the opera "Don Giovanni." In only three weeks, Jack starts living with an air-headed aerobics instructor half his age. Meanwhile, Gabe finds himself attracted to the talented young writer Rain (Juliette Lewis), who was named for the poet Rilke. He particularly likes the line in her story, "Life doesn't imitate art, it imitates bad TV."

Sally starts to date the strapping Michael (Liam Neeson), but their attempt at lovemaking doesn't work out so well because she gets distracted thinking about hedgehogs and foxes. While all this is happening, Gabe and Judy become painfully aware of the strain in their marriage, and it becomes apparent that there's a strong physical attraction between Judy and Michael. At one point, Judy tells Gabe she's going back into psychotherapy, but he objects on the grounds that her psychotherapist once wrote a paper saying the Sabine women had it coming.

I wouldn't dream of spoiling your fun by telling you how everything works out, but I will say I found the pairings at the end of the movie to be unexpected, yet they somehow feel right to me.

From the moment the soundtrack started to play Cole Porter's "What Is This Thing Called Love" over the opening credits, "Husbands and Wives" had me. The ensemble acting is absolutely terrific, and the performances of Judy Davis, Sydney Pollack, and Mia Farrow are outstanding. I like the cinematography, too, and I think Woody Allen must be given credit for writing a fine script and doing a brilliant job of directing.

In its original theatrical release, audiences and critics had difficulty seeing "Husbands and Wives" for the splendid film it is because of Allen's affair with Farrow's adopted daughter and the nasty legal battle between Allen and Farrow over custody of their children. But hopefully the intervening years have lent a little perspective, and I highly recommend this movie.

Selected Special Features on the DVD:

  • Widescreen and Full Screen Presentations
  • Theatrical Trailers (2)

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