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Robert Redford
Donald Sutherland, Mary Tyler Moore, Timothy Hutton
Writing Credits:
Alvin Sargent

The accidental death of the older son of an affluent family deeply strains the relationships among the bitter mother, the good-natured father, and the guilt-ridden younger son.

Box Office:
$6 million.
Domestic Gross

Rated R.


Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
English Dolby TrueHD 1.0
German Dolby 1.0
French Dolby 1.0
Japanese Dolby 1.0
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 124 min.
Price: $25.99
Release Date: 3/29/22

• “Swimming in the Rose Garden” Featurette
• “Feeling Is Not Selective” Featurette
• Trailer


-LG OLED65C6P 65-Inch 4K Ultra HD Smart OLED TV
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-Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player
-Chane A2.4 Speakers
-SVS SB12-NSD 12" 400-watt Sealed Box Subwoofer


Ordinary People (Paramount Presents Edition) [Blu-Ray] (1980)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (March 20, 2022)

No one should feel surprised that Martin Scorsese released no films in 2000. Based on his experiences during prior decade-starting years, one can’t blame him if he felt a little gun-shy.

In 1990, Scorsese produced GoodFellas, a very well-received and successful drama about a Mafia family. Although many - myself included - thought it was the year’s best film, it lost the Best Picture Academy Award to Dances With Wolves.

That Western came from Kevin Costner, a successful actor who made the transition behind the camera for Wolves, which was his first directorial effort.

In 1980, Scorsese produced Raging Bull, a very well-received and successful drama about a self-loathing boxer. Although many - myself not included - thought it was the year’s best film, it lost the Best Picture Academy Award to Ordinary People.

That study of a quietly dysfunctional family came from Robert Redford, a successful actor who made the transition behind the camera for People, which was - you guessed it - his first directorial effort.

No wonder Scorsese avoided a 2000 release. At least he finally nabbed an Oscar in 2006 for The Departed.

As the film starts, we gradually learn that teenaged son Conrad “Connie” Jarrett (Timothy Hutton) recently returned from a stay in a psychiatric hospital. Connie tried to kill himself after the death of his much-revered older brother Buck (Scott Doebler), a young man whose demise continues to cast a pall over the house.

Although they never seem to have been terribly close, the situation further comes between Connie and mother Beth (Mary Tyler Moore), a chilly and controlling woman who became even less open after Buck’s death. In between, father Calvin (Donald Sutherland) seems to sense the gulf between the two, but he appears unaware of ways in which he can affect the frayed relationship.

Connie continues to feel depressed and suicidal, and he eventually enters a therapeutic situation with Dr. Berger (Judd Hirsch). After a time, this seems to help him get a better grip on his issues, but the rift between him and his mother remains, and all the family members must confront themselves and each other to deal with their stresses.

That plot rarely rises above the level of melodramatic TV movie status, but People has a number of elements that help it succeed. Prime among these is the acting.

All three of the principals are outstanding in their roles, and I feel special attention should go to Moore. Cold and domineering Beth offers a serious departure for the former “America’s sweetheart”, and Moore plays the part for all it was worth.

After so many years on TV, I would have thought that she would be unable to resist temptations to warm up Beth in some ways, but she never submits to those ideas. Moore makes the character consistent and logical in her own little way. Beth seems generally unlikable but oddly sympathetic, as Moore makes her outwardly unresponsive to issues but still shows her as realistically detached and flawed.

Sutherland also displays Calvin’s conflicts with aplomb. The father must walk a tightrope between son and mother, and Sutherland does this with effectiveness but he never makes Calvin mushy or wimpy.

Yes, we’d like to see him take more of a stand, but the character’s internal consistency won’t allow much of that. Sutherland gives him a believability that works.

Hutton earned a Best Supporting Actor Oscar as Connie, and it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the son becomes the showiest role in the film. Moore and Sutherland need to remain much more low-key throughout the piece, while Hutton gets to display lots of mood swings, fits and other stimulating moments. Really, the designation of “Supporting Actor” seems incorrect, as Connie forms the film’s lead and its main emphasis.

Overall, Hutton really seens quite good in the part. I admit I prefer Moore and Sutherland, but that’s because I feel more respect toward actors who take on the less flashy roles, as it’s tougher to stand out in such plain parts. Nonetheless, that doesn’t denigrate Hutton’s work, as he makes Connie convincingly flawed and distraught without excessive melodrama or scenery chewing.

First-time director Redford does little to make the film stand out from the crowd, though I like the understated manner in which he tells the story. People always offers a low-key affair, and it almost never goes for cheap emotion.

I respect that and think it works well for the material. I also like the fact that People avoids too many easy answers. Some parts of it feel a little too convenient and simple, but it omits a traditionally happy ending and it stays reasonably true to its subjects.

My main complaint with People occurs because I feel it lacks much depth or insight. Although the past haunts the characters, the movie itself remains far too strongly in the present.

Other than the harrowing death of Buck, we see little of the prior lives of the Jarretts, so we don’t learn much about how they came to be who they are. Since the emphasis remains so strongly on Connie, his parents especially suffer in that regard. Additional examination of their issues would add dimensionality to the piece.

Nonetheless, Ordinary People offers a reasonably solid dramatic experience. Did it deserve a Best Picture award?

Probably not, but the film doesn’t embarrass the Academy. The movie sputters at times, but fine acting from its principals helps make it a success.

The Disc Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B-/ Bonus D+

Ordinary People appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Though not exactly a visual showpiece, this became a more than satisfactory presentation.

Sharpness worked fine. This wasn’t a movie that boasted the tightest delineation, but that resulted from the source, and the end result felt appropriately defined.

No examples of moiré effects or jagged edges appeared, and edge haloes remained absent. Print flaws also failed to create distractions, and the movie came with a light layer of grain.

No one should feel surprised to learn that a low-key drama like People offered a muted palette, and the hues felt perfectly adequate. The earthy tones seemed well depicted within visual choices.

Blacks felt dark and dense, while shadows appeared smooth and clear. This ended up as a good representation of the source.

The movie’s Dolby TrueHD monaural soundtrack appeared dated but fine. People offered a very chatty experience, and dialogue strongly dominated the film.

Music appeared occasionally but infrequently, and effects usually remained subdued. A few scenes - such as the ones on the capsized boat - became louder, but the vast majority of the movie stuck with minor ambience.

Audio quality appeared adequate. Speech sounded a little stiff but usually came across as reasonably natural.

As mentioned, neither effects nor music boasted much to do, but they seemed clear and appropriately rendered. Though nothing here impressed, the mix worked fine for a movie of this one’s age and ambitions.

How did the Blu-ray compare to the DVD from 2001? Despite the lossless nature of the Blu-ray’s audio, it didn’t boast much greater range given the nature of the source. Still, it brought a smidgen more warmth.

On the other hand, the Blu-ray gave us substantially improved visuals. The Blu-ray looked cleaner, smoother and better defined than the mediocre DVD.

Although the DVD only included the movie’s trailer - which also appears here – it adds some other extras. We start with a 10-minute, 55-second featurette called Swimming in the Rose Garden that brings comments from actor Timothy Hutton.

He covers how he came to the film, thoughts about cast and crew, and memories of his experiences. Nothing revelatory emerges but Hutton offers a reasonably appealing look at the flick.

Feeling Is Not Selective goes for five minutes, 35 seconds and offers notes from author Judith Guest. She discusses her experiences related to the movie.

Guest offers some fun stories but we don’t get much depth here. In particular, I expected notes about changes between the movie and the book, but these don’t arise. This becomes an enjoyable but less than substantial chat.

As a film, Ordinary People does not seem spectacular, but it works fairly well despite some TV movie sentiments. Largely this occurs because of its talented cast, as they elevate the material above its potential pitfalls. The Blu-ray comes with solid picture and audio along with minor supplements. I’d like better bonus materials but this becomes easily the best version of the movie on home video.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4 Stars Number of Votes: 2
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