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  Directed by
  • Widescreen 1.85:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • English: Dolby Digital Stereo
    English - Hearing Impaired
    Playing Mona Lisa (Rental)
    20th Century Fox/20th Century Fox . R4 . COLOR . 93 mins . M15+ . PAL


    It’s so good to see Alicia Witt back on screen. Remarkably adept at comedy and drama, and a classically trained pianist to boot – a talent that comes in quite handy here – it seems no matter how good or bad a script you throw at her she’ll always make a great fist of it.

    In Playing Mona Lisa she portrays Claire, a classically trained pianist (told you it was handy!) who has just graduated from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. If that foreboding, “oh no, not the real world!” feeling isn't enough, a chain of those events life has a nasty little habit of lobbing at you just when you think you’re getting it together suddenly kerchinks around her ankles. She’s rejected by a music competition, her boyfriend Jeremy dumps her just after a drunken proposal, an earthquake leaves her home condemned AND she has to face returning to her parents' place to live. As for her family, well her father is in the midst of a crisis, her mother has discovered the family cookbook and has a dreadful way with matzo balls, and her sister is in the throes of planning her wedding. Amidst this chaos it seems Claire cannot help but land fairly and squarely into a major bout of splat time.

    "Do you ever wonder why sheep don’t shrink when it rains?"

    Pining over her meatball former boyfriend, she starts looking for a replacement in not necessarily the right places, spurred on by advice from her friend Sabrina (Brooke Langton) – be like the Mona Lisa, as when nobody knows what you’re thinking it makes them all the more keen. Then she runs into Eddie (Ivan Sergei), could he be the antidote to the Jeremy blues, or is he just another typical guy?

    Based on a play entitled Two Goldsteins on Acid by Marni Freedman, who also worked on the screenplay, the good news is that Playing Mona Lisa doesn’t have that claustrophobic staginess of, ooh, say anything to ever have had the name Neil Simon attached to it. The story does belie its roots at times, however, but it still manages to be a fairly enjoyable meandering tale. The cast is well-assembled – Elliot Gould and Marlo Thomas as Claire’s parents in particular are fantastic, and although as Claire’s music teacher Harvey Fierstein just does his stock standard gay guy schtick yet again, he’s just so darned fun and lovable at it that you lap up every minute he’s on screen regardless.


    This 1.85:1, 16x9 enhanced transfer is remarkably, well, just there. It’s neither dreadful nor impressive – colour is fairly good, although overall things are generally quite dark, which isn’t good when it comes to dingier scenes, as shadow detail is decidedly average. Fine grain has a habit of hanging around like an unwelcome party crasher and there are quite a few nicks and specks scattered throughout the 93 minutes of running time, rather surprising for a recent film, however seeing as Playing Mona Lisa is hardly a hyper-budgeted blockbuster it’s probably understandable.

    The soundtrack is as perfunctory as they come nowadays – straight Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo. Much like the visual transfer, the audio is kind of a ‘C’ student – it does its job without ever excelling. Still, dialogue is clear at all times, and no synch problems are evident – just don’t expect any surround excitement, ‘cos it won’t be forthcoming. The score comes from a virgin in the field, Carlos Rodriguez, and if you’ve ever seen a film based on a play before you’ll probably have a fair idea what to expect. Bouncing around between his work are a collision of pop songs ranging from the Captain and Tennille to Blur and even Iceland’s Gus Gus, as well as a few pieces from Chopin and Lizst performed by Alicia Witt.

    The equation is pretty much set in stone by now - rental only = no extras. Playing Mona Lisa doesn’t rock the mathematical boat, not even featuring a trailer to boast of. When ‘scene access’ is listed as the sole ‘special feature’ on a disc’s package you kind of have to feel for the poor marketing department.

    When you add acidic hors d’oeuvres, steamy relationships based on Scrabble, a rousing round of Hava Nagila and some fabulous penguin slippers to the whole mix, Playing Mona Lisa delivers enough laughs and cries to make it worth devoting an hour and a half of your life to.

  • LINK: http://www.dvd.net.au/review.cgi?review_id=1906
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  •   And I quote...
    "A fairly enjoyable, meandering tale that delivers enough laughs and cries to make it worth devoting an hour and a half of your life to..."
    - Amy Flower
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Pioneer DV-535
    • TV:
          Sony 68cm
    • Receiver:
          Onkyo TX-DS494
    • Speakers:
          DB Dynamics Eclipse RBS662
    • Centre Speaker:
          DB Dynamics Eclipse ECC442
    • Surrounds:
          DB Dynamics Eclipse ECR042
    • Subwoofer:
          DTX Digital 4.8
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard RCA
    • Video Cables:
          Standard Component RCA
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