Oscar-winner “Ordinary People” – Paramount Presents – now on Blu-ray & 4K (digital)
4K ULTRA HD REVIEW/BLU-RAY REVIEW / HDR FRAME SHOTS
Mary Tyler Moore plays Beth Jarrett, mother of 18-year-old Conrad played by Timothy Hutton, who won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.
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“ORDINARY PEOPLE” – PARAMOUNT PRESENTS
4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, Digital copy; 1980, R for adult situations, suicide; Streaming via Amazon Prime Video (4K), Apple TV (4K), Vudu (4K), YouTube
Best extra: “Swimming in the Rose Garden” interview with Timothy Hutton (disc)
MEET THE Jarretts: Calvin (Donald Sutherland), his wife Beth (Mary Tyler Moore), and their 18-year-old son Conrad (Timothy Hutton). The Jarretts share an elegant home in Chicago’s suburbs and, on the surface, seem like the perfect upper-middle-class family. But judging by the dark circles under his eyes, and the ferocity with which he sings in his high school chorus, it’s obvious Conrad is troubled.
Before too long, we learn that the reason for his distress, and for his parents’ excessive vigilance of his every word and move, is that Conrad was recently been released from a psychiatric treatment residence after a suicide attempt. The tragic event that led to it, as well as to serious problems in his parents’ lives, is eventually revealed.
Directed by Robert Redford, and adapted from a novel by Judith Guest, “Ordinary People” remains a powerfully effective film, even 42 years after its release. Nominated for six Academy Awards, it won four including Best Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, and Supporting Actor for Hutton, himself a teenager when he played the tormented Conrad. Just as striking is the performance by Moore, who won a Best Actress Golden Globe for her role as a woman who couldn’t be less like Mary Richards (“The Mary Tyler Moore Show”) or Laura Petrie (“The Dick Van Dyke Show”) – or, for that matter, like the real Mary Tyler Moore. As Beth Jarrett, Moore brilliantly portrays a woman stretched like a brittle rubber band about to snap. She’s someone who can’t bear anything messy or out of her control – but also a mother who can’t stop grieving the death of her beloved first son, whose presence hovers over this sensitively-made film.
(1&2) Conrad dreads getting out of bed to interact with his mother before heading to school. (3&4) He waits to get a ride with his swim team buddies, but still struggles to communicate and re-establish normal relationships. (5) Conrad also sings in the high school choral group, right behind Jeannine Pratt (Elizabeth McGovern). (6) Conrad during swim team practice.
Strangely the Paramount Presents Blu-ray (1.78:1 aspect ratio) has a different aspect ratio than the 4K digital version (1.85:1 aspect ratio). The original 35mm camera negative was captured in an open matte format by cinematographer John Bailey (“In the Line of Fire,” “Silverado”) and was recently scanned and mastered in 4K. Redford oversaw the restoration, and both formats look excellent with natural film grain, with a slight edge of clarity to the 4K, demonstrated by the wide shots and nicely framed close-ups. The 4K/HDR10 and Dolby Vision are graded darker, with a wider spectrum of contrast levels. Both have consistent natural skin tones, and the colors are well-saturated.
The original 2.0 mono soundtrack has been restored in uncompressed Dolby TrueHD. Dialogue, effects, and music adapted by Marvin Hamlisch is centered and balanced.
Two recently recorded bonus features are only available on the Blu-ray. One is a conversation with Judith Guest, who relates her initial disbelief that actor Robert Redford was contacting her so he could direct a film of her novel. It would be his first movie.
The interview with Hutton is quite enjoyable. He notes that while he was the same age as Conrad in the film, his own life was totally different (Hutton’s father was the actor Jim Hutton). He discusses Redford’s directing style, which included telling the other members of the cast and crew (except for Judd Hirsch, who played Conrad’s psychiatrist) to “leave Tim alone,” something he only found out later. The idea was to add to the young actor’s sense of isolation, which he could carry over into his performance.
(1) Conversations at the dinner table are torture for Conrad, especially with his mother. His father Calvin (Donald Sutherland) encourages him to see a psychiatrist after he spent four months in a hospital. (2&3) Conrad debates if he should go into the building and see Dr. Berger (Judd Hirsch). (4) Dr. Berger asks Conrad some basic questions during his first session. “What did you do?” he asks. “I tried to off myself. Isn’t it down there?”
Hutton calls the experience “pretty intense,” adding to his desperate eagerness to make sure Redford wouldn’t feel “he had made a mistake by casting me.” Hutton says he only got to know Mary Tyler Moore after filming was completed, and discovered she was “nothing like the character she had played.” He recalls filming the boating accident scene, which was done in a Hollywood water tank, after the initial shooting on location in the Chicago area.
Hutton fondly remembers being presented his Oscar by Jack Lemmon and Mary Tyler Moore. “Before she said my name, she looked directly at me … I’ll never forget it.” He laughingly adds that, had Redford not taken his hand to shake it as he rose to get to the stage and accept his award, he would have fallen flat on his face.
— Peggy Earle
(1) Coach Salan (M. Emmet Walsh) says, “I see you yawning, I see you come late. I don't see you having any fun out there. Are you getting enough sleep?” (2) Conrad starts talking with Jeannine Pratt, and they eventually go out on a date. (3) Beth and Calvin try to have a normal relationship after what happened to their sons. (4&5) Beth and Conrad are still distant.
(1&2) A late afternoon session with Dr. Berger, and we get a flashback of Beth reacting to Conrad being wheeled into the ambulance after cutting his wrists. (3) Conrad and Jeannine walk home after school. (4-6) Conrad finally opens up about the boating accident between him and his older brother Buck. (7) Beth and Calvin’s relationship explodes during a golf vacation in Texas. (8) Conrad and Calvin continue to develop their relationship.