Smooth Talk is a “coming of age” story that won the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival. It stars Laura Dern as Connie, a teenage girl from a small southern town. She’s at that rebellious age. In the words of Britney Spears, “she’s still a girl, not quite a woman”. Connie is curious about the opposite sex and a world outside the town. She’s searching for something, but what she finds, she might not want.
Treat Williams plays Arnold Friend. Friend, as it turns out, is nobody’s frien…. I won’t spoil the ending of the movie, but let’s just say he’s the villain of the piece. The ominous music helps you figure that out. Another performance of note is Levon Helm (drummer for “The Band”) who plays Connie’s remote, sensitive father; a standout piece of acting. He’s probably the best drummer/actor I’ve ever seen. Sorry Ringo.
Smooth Talkis slow going. During the first hour, nothing seems to be happening. But the filmmakers know exactly where they’re going. The last half hour is quite stunning. The final “showdown” between Arnold and Connie is disturbing, a little bit funny, and tragic, all at the same time. Treat Williams’s performance teeters on parody, as Rico Suave, but it seems to work somehow. And Laura Dern…well…it’s one of her early performances, and she really shows her talent as Connie. In this role, Dern combines southern sass with sweetness and sadness. Simply beautiful.
This Dolby Digital 2.0 audio track shows its age sometimes. There are some audible scratching noises, and the dialogue sounds a bit harsh on the high end. There’s almost no use of the rear speakers. An adequate track.
This disc’s transfer looks great for a movie that is 20 years old. There’s the occasional grainy moment, but the transfer looks cleaned up. The colors seem natural for the sleepy southern town setting. The documentary feel benefits the story. You can watch the film in widescreen 1:85:1 or flip if over for 1.33:1 fullscreen. I’ll leave it up to you.
Smooth Talkis a film that sneaks up on you. I had never heard of it before this review. There are some dated aspects (the cheesy 80s synth stuff on the soundtrack), but this is a story that resonates. Apparently the Joyce Carol Oates story (which this film is based on) is much darker and ends on a more tragic note. The ending in Smooth Talk works though because it’s in keeping with the rest of the film: quiet, graceful, and a little bit sad. And Laura Dern will break your heart.