HOME   News   Reviews   Adv Search   Features   My DVD   About   Apps   Stats     Search:
  Directed by
  • Widescreen 1.78:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • Dual Layer (RSDL 45.27)
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • Italian: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
    English, Spanish, Italian, Hebrew, Greek, Polish, Hungarian, Dutch, Portuguese, Italian - Hearing Impaired, Turkish, Icelandic, Croatian, Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish
  • Theatrical trailer
  • Featurette

Sweet November

Warner Bros./Warner Bros. . R4 . COLOR . 115 mins . M . PAL


With Hollywood almost obsessed with eating its own past in these days of diminishing inspiration, it’s not at all surprising to find a credit on a new movie that proudly states “based on the screenplay by…” - but these modern reworkings are usually confined to two categories. There’s the poison genre of the Remade European Movie - think Three Men And A Baby, The Assassin (based almost shot-for-shot on Luc Besson’s Nikita), The Vanishing (a Hollywoodised version of a Dutch film of the same name, made by the same director) or even Stephen Soderbergh’s admittedly excellent Traffic (based on a similarly titled UK mini-series). Then there are the genre reworkings - The Brady Bunch Movie, the Batman movies, The Flintstones, The Beverly Hillbillies, The Nutty Professor, Dr Doolittle, Popeye... the list of these is endless, and only a few are actually any good. But what about Sweet November - where does this one fit in to this impassioned diatribe?

The answer is in that “based on the screenplay” credit. For while few will remember the obscure 1968 film of the same name upon which this modern Sweet November is based, it is nonetheless what the music industry would call a “cover version”. That 1968 film (which starred Sandy Dennis and Anthony Newley in the lead roles) is unfamiliar to most people - including this reviewer - but obviously struck a chord with the new version’s many producers, as they’ve resurrected the story over 30 years later with a decidedly modern angle stapled onto the story’s curiously old-Hollywood body.

In this 2001 take on the story, power-driven advertising executive Nelson Moss (Keanu Reeves) is one of the biggest success stories in the ad world - making deals and conceiving campaigns almost 24 hours a day, he’s driven almost to the point of self-implosion, not noticing that despite his luxurious surroundings and even more luxurious girlfriend (dissatisfied, though Nelson hasn’t stopped to notice), he actually has nothing of meaning in his life. Enter Sara Deever (Charlize Theron). A quirky, unpredictable woman with some ideas that are purely unconventional to control-freak Nelson, she runs into the stressed ad exec at a driver’s license exam and immediately infiltrates herself into his life at the very same time as that life is falling apart. After a seriously misguided pitch to a hot dog company Nelson loses his job, his girlfriend and his way of life all in one day, but still can’t quite manage to lose Sara Deever. Having stalked him, embarrassed him and taken him on a spot of late night larceny, she makes Nelson an offer - if he’ll agree to move in with her for a month, she will show him that there’s more to life than work, work, sleep and work - as it turns out, this month-of-Sara thing is a regular project of hers. And so move in he eventually, reluctantly does - at which point Nelson’s life changes forever. As, indeed, may Sara’s…

Starting out as what appears to be a quirky comedic morality tale, Sweet November is obviously also heading straight into romance territory; when it gets there, though, it throws another spanner into the works which will surprise some viewers (though those with more experience in the art of the proverbial “chick flick” will see what’s coming a mile off. It’s an odd story and a very odd screenplay for most of the running time - imagine Dharma And Greg with the sitcom elements removed and you’re in the ballpark - but once the setup has been done, the film shifts gear to unashamed romance, then pushes its new emotional path as far as it possibly can.

We’re trying not to give too much away here - one of the most entertaining aspects of Sweet November is its tendency to unexpectedly shift in emotional tone. Suffice to say that the movie did not go down well with critics on its cinema release; by the end, you’ll see why, but rest assured that if you don’t have a problem with a somewhat user-used plot twist (though it’s handled surprisingly subtly here) you’ll probably enjoy this one immensely. Much of the appeal lies in the performances of the leads - Charlize Theron is a very talented actor who breathes genuine life into the characters she plays, while Keanu Reeves follows up his startling bad-guy turn in The Gift with an unexpectedly three-dimensional, winning performance as Nelson. Comic relief is provided in spades by Greg Germann, who most will recognise as Richard Fish from TV’s Ally McBeal; he plays much the same character here.

Director Pat O’Connor (who’s best known for the delightfully low-key Circle Of Friends) is a perfect choice to helm the movie, and he and cinematographer Edward Lachman (who also shot The Virgin Suicides and Erin Brockovich) make the most of their San Francisco location, adding a great deal of atmosphere to the whole production simply by imbuing it with a warm, nostalgic visual and visceral style.

If it’s high drama you’re after - or if you saw Reeves and Theron paired in The Devil’s Advocate and were hoping for more of the same - you’d be better off looking elsewhere. But those after an old-fashioned romance that verges on corny - but never quite crosses that line - then Sweet November could well be the perfect antidote for your night in.


Presented at a 1.77:1 aspect ratio (despite the back cover’s claim of 1.85:1) and 16:9 enhanced, Sweet November looks near-perfect on DVD, with the telecine transfer making the most of Edward Lachman’s rich use of colour and light throughout. With plenty of shadow detail and virtually no problems at all at the compression stage (despite the movie using substantially less disc space than is available to it on this dual-layered disc) the only real complaint is that, at least on the Sony player used for this review, some rapid camera pans and tracking shots appeared a little less smooth than PAL viewers are accustomed to seeing. As it turns out, the film frames are encoded in progressive format on this disc, which may possibly have had something to do with that.

Overall, though, the image quality throughout is superb, and very much up with the state of the art in modern video transfers.

The layer change - quite early in the film, around the 45 minute mark - is extremely well placed right at the start of a scene on a static establishing shot, making its presence quite inconspicuous; it is navigated extremely quickly.


Though largely a dialogue-centric film, the music score for Sweet November (a wonderful piece of work by Christopher Young) and the many pop songs (mainly by female artists, with a heavy emphasis on documentary-director-favourite Enya) dominates the audio throughout the film, and it’s pleasing to note that everything here is well rendered and completely flawlessly mastered. As is common with most modern studio films, the audio chain was most likely digital from start to finish; there’s certainly very little discernable hiss or other noise here to distract from the mood of the film. The dialogue itself is crystal clear, as expected. The English soundtrack is only provided in Dolby Digital 5.1, but this track downmixes transparently to Dolby Surround and plain old stereo.

With over 2 gigabytes of spare disc space, though, we do wish Warner would stop mastering their PAL DVD soundtracks at the lower bitrate of 384Kbit/sec. The difference IS audible.


There’s not much in the way of extra features on offer here, but what we do get appears to be the same as the features on the region 1 DVD of the film - namely, a ten minute featurette produced specifically for home video titled From The Heart (while short, it’s actually a fraction more interesting than the usual sell-it-to-the-media hypefest seen in this format) and the theatrical trailer.

The trailer (in a pristine transfer almost as good as that of the film itself, but this time with Dolby Surround audio) is careful not to give too much away - but the featurette quite literally tells all about the movie’s plot surprises. Do not watch the latter until after you’ve seen the movie.

A cast and crew page is provided, but like most recent Warner releases, it’s a static text screen that provides less information than you’ll find on the back cover of the disc, and there are no bios or filmographies. This is immensely disappointing.

Also disappointing - aside from the dreadful DVD-logo background inside the Amaray case, which has got to go - is the disc’s label. As has been widely reported online, the days of picture labels on Warner DVDs appears to be over, replaced by a bare-bones black-text screen print with an obnoxious not-for-rental notice dominating the available space. Pray that Warner never start mastering their DVDs in Australia, or we may well start seeing these same warnings, VHS-style, at the head of the movie when we press the “play” button!


Critically panned and despised by many, Sweet November was, to this reviewer, actually a lot better than the reputation that preceded it. While hardly high art, it’s a warm, well-made romance that benefits from solid production values and some unexpectedly strong performances; while not for everybody, this one will have great appeal to those who are looking for a movie that is literally infused with optimism and warmth. Warner’s DVD - released, very appropriately, right on the date on which the film’s story begins - presents the movie with exceptionally high video and audio quality but with minimal extras.

  • LINK: http://www.dvd.net.au/review.cgi?review_id=979
  • Send to a friend.

    Cast your vote here: You must enable cookies to vote.
      And I quote...
    "...a warm, well-made romance that benefits from solid production values and some unexpectedly strong performances..."
    - Anthony Horan
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Sony DVP-NS300
    • Receiver:
          Sony STR-AV1020
    • Speakers:
          Klipsch Tangent 500
    • Surrounds:
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard RCA
    • Video Cables:
          Monster s-video
      Recent Reviews:
    by Anthony Horan

    Immortal Beloved
    "For two hours, this film will transport you..."

    Pet Shop Boys - Pop Art
    "A must-buy for Pet Shop Boys fans, Pop Art is also highly recommended for those who remember how good pop music could be in the ‘80s."

    Alias - The Complete First Season
    "One of the most addictive and entertaining US television series' in many years... Buena Vista's DVD set gets almost everything right."

    R.E.M.: In View - The Best of 1988-2003
    "Every home should have one."

    Queen Margot
    "A spectacular, enthralling masterpiece..."

      Related Links
      None listed


    Search for Title/Actor/Director:
    Google Web dvd.net.au
       Copyright DVDnet. All rights reserved. Site Design by RED 5