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I can just hear you sniggering right now in the distance as you read the title of this movie.

When I first came across this DVD I honestly started thinking "Oh God, another drama" as these are usually the domain of female-induced waterworks.  But as one matures in life, one slowly warms to more intellectual and emotional outings and maybe starts wanting to shy away from the films with witty one-liners and explosions.  I'm not so much a S.N.A.G. of the 90s as a Gracious Understanding Yobbo for the 21st century, or G.U.Y. for short (sorry, that's all I could come up with at short notice).

Elephant Juice
From the creators of TV's This Life comes the movie Elephant Juice.  I have not seen this particular TV series before but many people have commented that both of these productions are pretty much inter-related.  The closest comparison to what I've seen before might be Cold Feet but without a lot of the humour, although this isn't what the film is trying to aim for anyway.  My enjoyment of this movie stems mainly from everything that is unsaid rather than what some filmmakers feel should be verbalised in a torrent of passionate monologues.  The only time it steps out into this realm is with the rantings of a drunken ex-boyfriend which just about borders on the clichéd, but other than that you can expect a very touching personal drama that shouldn't have you reaching for the tissue box every five seconds.

I have to admit that this film was a real pleasure to watch, mainly because it does not allow itself to become melodramatic just for the sake of presenting the character's feelings about what is happening to them.  As one person once said: "Spielberg tells the audience how to feel with his images and music" which is not at all what happens in this film.  The emotions that these people go through are hardly expressed directly but rather with more subtle looks and motions, so in this way it allows us to judge for ourselves what each character is going through internally.

Elephant Juice
The cast & crew behind this production should be commended for treating its audience with enough intelligence and street-smarts to be able to understand what is taking place on-screen.  So thankfully, this have given us the opportunity to find the humour or sadness within any scene depending on our own point of view at the time.  And maybe what makes this film particularly appealing to me is that I can relate very well to one of the characters herein ... I won't say which one though.

Movie
Starting off at the dinner table, we see seven people as they were when things were at their happiest, most comfortable and relatively uncomplicated.  Then the story progresses in future flashbacks (an unusual concept to say the least) as we see their lives unfold.

Jules (Emmanuelle Béart) has been with the enchanting Will (Daniel Lapaine) since Adam & Eve got it together it seems and their courtship finally comes full circle as they agree to get married.  Then there's Billy (Sean Gallagher) who is friends to this couple, he is your typical good guy who just can't get a date to save his life but he eventually scores upon the visiting American called Dodie (Kimberly Williams) who works at the local coffee shop.  Frank (Mark Strong) and Daphne (Daniela Nardini) have met each other on the Internet as they seem to hold a more honest view than most of what true attraction should entail for them.  Then there's Graham (Lennie James) and George (Lee Williams) who are into each other like Liberaché and Rock Hudson.

Elephant Juice
Billy gets continual advice from Will (the ladies man) about how to impress the opposite sex, although Will's charm and good looks take over his better judgement most of the time.  Jules feels that marrying Will may not be the best idea in the world to which she confides her doubts to Billy who in turn harbours a low-level admiration for her.  Dodie finds Billy's ineptness quite charming, she has problems of her own but knows that he is someone she can trust.  Frank feels that he has found his soulmate in Daphne although she ultimately feels a lack of confidence about her own honesty with him.  And Graham just adores his wayward boyfriend George but he just cannot contemplate the thought of settling down.

The only shortcoming of this film for these characters happens to be the events that occur with the homosexual couple, although you could argue that this is the result of George just not wanting to be tied down to Graham's way of home-life and subsequently he just doesn't appear on-screen much at all.

Video
For a drama, the aspect ratio of 2.35:1 is usually reserved for the epics of celluloid, but it works quite admirably for something as intimate as this film.

Elephant Juice
This is a very effective transfer of the film elements with nearly everything in perfect working order.  This being a British film made in 1999, the colours are nicely saturated and completely natural without looking at all enhanced, considering the often gloomy weather that inhabits the UK (although not this summer of 2003 with the hottest temperatures on record, just wanted to point that out here).  Black levels are as deep as they can go although the shadow detail isn't as clear as it probably could have been, but I'm sure that this was more of a creative decision for the shots involving interiors and nighttime to have an understated look for the characters and backgrounds but without a total loss of detail.  Grain is barely noticable throughout and there is only the occasional (slight) issue with MPEG artifacting in the softer areas of the image, but the focus generally lacks in razor-sharpness for many of the scenes.

Audio
Again, an atypical choice to go with a full Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack for this kind of movie since the most involving thing to be heard here is the music.  And the cover of the DVD says that there is an additional 2.0 soundtrack, but this is definitely not on this disc.

Dialogue is for the most part easily intelligible except in scenes where the people are located in noisy bars or clubs (which is something that The Matrix tends to show a little less realism on), so what they say here isn't nearly as important as what you are imaging they are conveying to each other as the situations progress.  The music is probably the loudest thing that you will hear on this soundtrack although the stylings are that of comtemporary funk-jazz songs so this doesn't overpower the movie's flow at all.  The subwoofer only supports the music it seems and the surround channels provide pretty much a mono experience of occasional ambienct sounds as well certain interior or exterior environmental envelopment.  Other than that, the majority of this piece is a front-stage directed affair.

Elephant Juice
Extras
The theatrical trailer and a set of English subtitles which helps in locating the odd missed bit of dialogue.

Summary
I'd recommend this movie in a heartbeat for anyone who likes entertaining realism in movies, and I'm not talking about the so-called kind that you see on Big Brother every day.  But as far as recommending this as a DVD purchase it won't have your typical audio commentary or making-of featurettes, so therein lies the difficulty of paying the usual RRP for something that only has the movie itself as its selling point.

In terms of story-telling, I feel that this film presents a very honest look at ordinary people who must go through the rigours of everyday living to somehow find some happiness within themselves.  This DVD is definitely worth a rental at least for something slightly different from the norm of this genre, which makes a great change from doing the lucky dip on whichever B-grade actioner that won't stink this time.


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