Even in spite of my biases, there were some things I liked about the movie, namely the performances. While a nameless film when it was released in 1993, THE THING CALLED LOVE is star-studded by today’s standards. Samantha Mathis (the drugged out chick from AMERICAN PSYCHO) stars in the main role and has no problem carrying the movie herself. However, she’s outshone by the supporting cast, which includes a young Sandra Bullock playing a southern bumpkin, Julia Roberts’s BFF Dermot Mulroney, and the late River Phoenix, who does his best brooding James Dean impression. Each actor is believable in their respective roles, especially Phoenix who takes a pretty much one-note character and attempts to instill him with some captivating depth. That lack of depth was the main problem I had with the flick, especially the love story at the center. The romance between Mathis and Phoenix’s characters happens so fast, and the two make so many dumb decisions that you go from feeling sorry for their naivety, to laughing at their stupidity. Director Peter Bogdanovich has some good films under his belt and I know he’s capable of creating compelling characters and relationships, but this felt like a lesser effort.
The best way to describe THE THING CALLED LOVE is “COYOTE UGLY without the half naked dancing girls.” I think you can decide for yourself whether or not that’s a movie you want to see.
Commentary by director Peter Bogdanovich: I’m going to make a radical suggestion for all you directors out there: If you have a smooth, deep voice, please don’t record a commentary track! You could talk for two hours about seeing Jennifer Connelly and Natalie Portman go at it in the bathroom of a Denny’s and it would still probably lull me to sleep. Aside from his monotone drawl, Bogdanovich remembers a lot of specifics about the production, location, and actors, but ultimately nothing that I really gave a crap about.
The Thing Called Love: A Look Back (22:22): A retrospective on the film including current interviews with Bogdanovich, Mathis and Mulroney, and old interviews with River Phoenix and Sandra Bullock. There’s a funny story about the cast having to learn how to line dance, and I was surprised to find out that all the actors did their own singing (even if I didn’t like it). All in all, a nice, lengthy feature that fans of the film should enjoy.
The Look Of The Film (7:44): Bogdanovich talks about the difficulty of shooting in different locations and cities, and the costume designer speaks about her craft. I guess the fact that you never notice any of these things when watching the movie is a testament to the fact that they did a good job.
Our Friend River (7:43): A really nice tribute to Phoenix with cast and crew sharing their fond memories of the actor, who no doubt would’ve gone on to be a great actor.
The bonus features are rounded off with the original Theatrical Trailer, which contains some scenes that weren’t in movie. So I’m guessing there are deleted scenes… Wouldn’t this DVD be a good place to showcase them?