Enchanted April was a BBC television production that got a theatrical release way back in 1992 and managed to snag several Academy Award Nominations. Although I didn’t really notice, it has never been released on DVD. Until now.
A sort of kooky spirituality hovers over Enchanted April. Not the annoying kind of kooky spirituality, but a light “presence” of something that releases the cares of 1920’s English housefraus and helps solve bad marriages and overall grumpiness. The “presence” resides in Italy where four women escape the rain and dreariness of their lackluster London lives and spend one month in a castle.
The four women, relative strangers in post WWI England, include Lottie (Josie Lawrence) and Rose (Miranda Richardson), women who are clearly unhappy with their husbands and their drab lives in general. Joan Plowright (nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar) is Mrs. Fisher, a widow whose outer prickliness and propriety hide an inner loneliness and Polly Walker is Caroline, a rich beauty tired of being pawed by the men in her social circle.
The foursome heads down to Italy together and the beautiful sunny coast and gorgeous and earthy castle do the rest. Lottie, the one in the group most in touch with her inner spiritual kook, is instantly transformed and soon sees that getting her pompous husband Mellersh (the brilliant Alfred Molina) to the castle will do wonders for their marriage. She’s right (she sees stuff like this in her mind’s eye) and pushes Richardson to invite her distant husband (Jim Broadbent) as well. Meanwhile, Mrs. Fisher comes out of her shell and Caroline gets the rest and solitude needed to recharge.
This a chick flick to the nth degree. English accents, period clothing (ok, it’s 1920’s rather than the 1800’s, but still), true love for all who qualify, and feminine friendship crossing generational and class divisions. It doesn’t bore the crap out of us guys, though. Using voice-overs to allow the women to discuss their feelings freely, director Mike Newell and screenwriter Peter Barnes (working from Elizabeth Von Arnim’s book), get to the point a lot faster than otherwise and put the whole pleasant experience to bed in a little over 90 minutes.
It’s easy to see why so many women like this film, but it’s enjoyable for anyone. Well, not kids, they’ll be bored stupid, but any adult who likes good acting and pretty scenery will get their money’s worth from this small film.
Reportedly fans of the movie have been waiting for the arrival of Enchanted April on DVD for years. If that’s the case, they are going to be sadly disappointed by this Miramax release. I guess having the movie on DVD is better than not having it if you love it, but it’s hard to imagine a good movie with a loyal following getting a worse treatment.
The main problem is the quality of the picture. It’s bad. A better word might be sucky. It sucks. It looks like every day from the day it was released in theaters in 1992 until today it was left out in the sun, wind, and rain with bums asked to use it as toilet paper. Ok, it’s not that bad, but it’s not good either. It looks like old films often look when they show them on television at 2 am. It isn’t sharp at all and while the outdoor scenes in Italy are still pretty, the interior scenes are almost depressing. Clearly nobody wanted to spend money on this thing.
As if the picture quality wasn’t bad enough, the extras are almost non-existent. The only extra is a commentary track from director Mike Newell and producer Ann Scott. It’s a newly recorded track and Newell starts off by saying things like “we’ll see if we can remember anything” and the like. It’s not an uninteresting commentary, but it’s pretty disjointed. Newell and Scott often don’t talk about the events that are actually happening on screen, they reminisce or talk about other scenes in the film that haven’t occurred. An example is that the first 10 minutes or so of the film they talk about filming at the Italian location, even though all the action is taking place in England. When Miranda Richardson is onscreen early in the film, they talk about a scene much later in the film where she is crying. It’s just odd. Although they do release some interesting tidbits, so it’s not a total loss.
There isn’t anything on the disc after the commentary. Newell and Scott acknowledge during the commentary that the film was made cheaply for British television so no one was following the cast and crew around with a camera making a documentary. The decision to not put together some reminiscing among the stars is odd, but again it seems like Miramax knew rabid fans would snap this up regardless and didn’t want to spend the money.
If you’ve been waiting for this movie to hit DVD for a long time, I’m sorry. They didn’t do a great job. It is a very good film, but the presentation is, to be generous, weak.