Shirley MacLaine’s Best Role?

A contentious mother-daughter dynamic drives James L. Brooks’ Best Picture winner Terms of Endearment. A movie made by adults for adults, the tearjerker is an honest portrayal of messy families as they love, laugh, and cry together in a poignant screenplay blessed with a wonderful cast.

Starring Debra Winger, Shirley MacLaine, and an uproarious Jack Nicholson, Terms of Endearment dominated the 1983 Oscars. Terms of Endearment took home five golden statues, including the rare trifecta for filmmaker James L. Brooks in his debut feature, winning Best Director, Best Picture and Best Screenplay. That overstates its pure entertainment value but with time and perspective, you can understand why the critically acclaimed comedy-drama (the term dramedy hadn’t been invented yet) was so well received by Hollywood.

Terms of Endearment is one of those rare movies when everything is clicking on all cylinders

All favorites within the industry, the all-star cast give some of the best performances of their careers, including MacLaine’s magnum opus, Winger’s acclaimed portrayal, and maybe Nicholson’s funniest character. Not to mention the nice turns in secondary roles from Jeff Daniels, John Lithgow and Danny DeVito.

Against the wishes of her mother Aurora Greenway (Shirley MacLaine), Emma (Debra Winger) marries struggling teacher Flap (Jeff Daniels). That drives a wedge between the overprotective mother and close daughter for many years as Emma moves on with her life. Emma’s marriage sees its share of ups and downs over the years as she has children with Flap and they move out of state.

Growing bored of her lonely life after Emma’s departure, Aurora finally loosens up. The graying woman gets involved with her roguish bad boy neighbor, a former astronaut played by Jack Nicholson who usually has a thing for much younger and scandalous women.

Family relationships are often complicated, driven by misunderstandings and stubborn personalities. Almost no film depicts that better than Terms of Endearment. Technically adapted from a novel by Larry McMurtry, virtually everyone agrees Brooks spun gold from straw in his funny and often moving screenplay. Endowed with charm by the powerhouse cast, Terms of Endearment is one of those rare movies when everything is clicking on all cylinders. From its smart writing to the enormously talented actors, there’s a level of craftsmanship rarely achieved.

While I don’t believe Terms of Endearment is a monumental classic that everyone instantly should love, the tearjerker has plenty of laughs and a refreshingly honest approach to its well-sketched characters. Packing an emotional punch which shouldn’t be spoiled, the movie balances happy and sad better than most ever made. A sequel titled The Evening Star was eventually made in 1996.

Video

The Dolby Vision-enhanced 1.85:1 presentation looks excellent on 4K UHD, a faithful 4K transfer of the original camera negative. The transfer was recently struck by Paramount and supposedly approved by Brooks for what that is worth. This doesn’t receive a flashy color correction altering history, Paramount has gone with a decidedly conservative and authentic approach to Terms of Endearment emulating its originally intended aesthetic.

Terms of Endearment isn’t a showcase stunner with amazing definition and razor-sharp clarity. The 1983 movie’s cinematography by Andrzej Bartkowiak is reasonably sharp with softer features and a naturalistic color palette. A few scenes show off colorful highlights like Aurora’s prized flower garden but this certainly doesn’t have Technicolor levels of saturation. The negative is in fine condition, nicely preserved over the last forty years with negligible damage or really any signs of chemical deterioration.

Paramount issues the Oscar winner on a dual-layer UHD. The main feature runs over 131 minutes in a pristine HEVC encode which captures subtle nuances in the superb grain reproduction. I’m not sure the original negative for Terms of Endearment is a great candidate for 4K treatment.

Without winning a Best Picture Oscar, it’s hard believing Paramount would have bothered issuing the film on UHD. The picture quality is underwhelming in terms of raw detail and vivid clarity matched against newer productions. While a fair tick better than earlier BDs, don’t expect this disc to wow your non-videophile friends.

Audio

The dialogue-driven film offers 5.1 DTS-HD MA sound, presumably the same “surround” mix created over twenty years ago when Terms of Endearment made its DVD debut. The musical score from Michael Gore is the prime beneficiary of the surround channels, gently expanding the soundstage. Dialogue is clean and crisp.

A number of subtitle options are present on the UHD. Optional English, English SDH, German, French, Italian, Japanese and Dutch subtitles play in a white font. German, French and Italian dubs in 2.0 mono Dolby Digital are available.

Extras

Paramount issues the critically acclaimed film with a disappointing set of bonus features for what may very well be its final edition on physical media. The more baffling decision was leaving the commentary off the 4K UHD. Carried over from the original DVD release, it can only be found here on the included Blu-ray. In fact, all special features are strictly confined to the BD. The UHD has the main feature and nothing beyond it.

Terms of Endearment is #42 in the supposedly limited edition Paramount Presents line. Included in the two-disc set (one UHD, one BD) is a digital code which redeems in 4K quality on VUDU or iTunes. The package includes a single clear UHD case and the deluxe fold-out slipcover with movie poster reproduction Paramount has used before for this line.

Audio Commentary by Director James L. Brooks, co-producer Penney Finkelman Cox, and production designer Polly Platt – Brooks isn’t super prepared for this older archival commentary from the original DVD. It’s a casual discussion in which he covers casting and working with the actors. Be prepared for long pauses in the back half. This is probably only for big fans.

Filmmaker Focus with James L. Brooks (13:57 in HD) – In this new interview Brooks reflects on the challenges that came with being a first-time director, including dealing with Jack Nicholson. He also discusses the casting process and the film’s performances.

Theatrical Trailer (04:50 in HD)

Full disclosure: This UHD was provided by the label for review. This has not materially affected DoBlu’s editorial process. For information on how we handle all review material, please visit DoBlu’s about us page.

Terms of Endearment
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  • Extras
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James L. Brooks’ poignant dramedy that nearly swept the Oscars is packed with stellar performances and an endearing humanity

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The following six screen shots serve as samples for our subscription-exclusive set of 52 full resolution, uncompressed 4K screen shots ripped directly from the UHD:


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