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Imprint Films Continues Their Stellar Focus on Jessica Lange with Crimes of the Heart

Feature Presentations: Episode 95

Welcome to this column dedicated to my appreciation of physical media supplements called Feature Presentations. The goal of this column is not to say whether a film is good or bad and worth picking up or not- I would like to highlight the discs that go the extra mile and provide film fans with enough tasty tidbits to satisfy even the hungriest of cinephiles. Today’s article spotlights the 1986 film Crimes of the Heart and is part two of a four-part review of the Film Focus: Jessica Lange 1982-1995 box set from Imprint Films.

The theatrical poster for Crimes of the Heart

I never have been or will claim to be an expert in reviewing the technical specs of a physical media release. There are plenty of knowledgeable people in this realm of commenting on the audio and video aspects of a disc with better setups than I’ll ever own. This column, Feature Presentations, is a way of highlighting the supplemental material within a given disc. With all that out of the way, let’s get to the good stuff and dive into my review of Crimes of the Heart.

As a disclaimer of transparency for this episode of Feature Presentations, my review of the Film Focus: Jessica Lange box set and the film Crimes of the Heart comes from a copy Imprint Films provided for review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Three sisters with varying personalities return to each other’s lives over a few days. The quirky sisters spend their time navigating the trials and tribulations of love and loss in ways only a well-written script and a top-notch cast can. While this box set is dedicated to Jessica Lange, Crimes of the Heart gives her two capable actresses in Sissy Spacek and Diane Keaton in which to showcase her cinematic talents.

What I love about box sets like this is the opportunity to see films that have eluded me until now. A film such as this does not initially speak to my cinematic tastes. Not so much that it’s a female-centric film, but a quirky dramedy is a difficult act to pull off in a cinematic sense. A lot of talent and skill is needed; thankfully, Crimes of the Heart is just that. Led by the aforementioned stellar trio of Diane Keaton, Jessica Lange, and Sissy Spacek, and based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning play of the same name, each actress gets their moment to shine, and so does the script, deftly blending bits of dark humor with emotional drama to create one of my favorite cinematic surprises in a long time.

Lenny lounges on a couch while Babe stands in the background of another room.

The supplemental material begins with “Everyday Life, Well-Observed,” an interview with director Bruce Beresford. Beresford recounts the relative ease of getting Crimes of the Heart from the stage to the screen and his working relationship with the cast and crew. He mentions how Dino De Laurentiis stepped up to assist in the project’s production and the pool of actors lined up for a chance to star in the film adaptation. Beresford mentions he doesn’t rewatch his films but has nothing outside pleasantries to offer everyone. “Everyday Life, Well-Observed” doesn’t get deep into the nitty-gritty of the movie’s production, but it’s a light watch, and if you’re interested in hearing what the director has to say, it’s worth giving the interview a once-over.

“Southern Discomfort” is a newly-filmed interview with playwright and screenwriter Beth Henley. Slightly more interesting than “Everyday Life, Well-Observed,” Henley offers insight into how she made her way from a small town in Mississippi all the way to Hollywood. She remarks on how she structured and based the play Crimes of the Heart, the ease at screenwriting versus playwriting, and meeting one of her idols and fellow playwright, Sam Shepard. You don’t often hear from an author of the stage on a Blu-ray release. And, even though Henley is slightly quirky, “Southern Discomfort” is an engaging and sometimes hilarious sit-down.

The next batch of features comes in the form of archival interviews with the cast and crew shot during the film’s theatrical run. While it’s always welcome to hear from actresses Jessica Lange, Sissy Spacek, Tess Harper, director Bruce Beresford, and playwright Beth Henley, none of these brief snippets are more than puff pieces. The surface-level questions provided by the interviewer do not offer much in the way of insight. The chats perk up when we get to Spacek and Harper’s conversations as the interviewer has an established rapport with both women. The only astuteness about the production comes from the brief chat with producer Freddie Fields, giving a bit more of a peek behind the curtain than the others. Even still, there isn’t much here, and not be a feature I see myself returning to.

Imprint Films also includes an audio commentary with Karen Horsley, author of “The American Southern Gothic on Screen.” Horsely begins by detailing what constitutes a Southern Gothic and how Crimes of the Heart fits into such a mold. She then discusses the aesthetics of Southern culture and pinpoints moments throughout the film that resonate within the American Southern Gothic including the seemingly honest lawyer, usage of the Southern grotesque, and how the porch serves as a point for the characters to open themselves to skeletons in their closets. While Horsley does a fantastic job offering her expert analysis on Crimes of the Heart, she seems to run out of things to say during the back half of the picture. It’s a terrific commentary and worth a listen; I wish it concluded as actively as it began.

Imprint Films brings the Crimes of the Heart Blu-ray to a close with the movie’s theatrical trailer.

Meg stands in the doorway in a jean jacket while holding a pink box of baked goods.

And there you have it! Following on the heels of the terrific edition of Frances, Imprint Films is two-for-two on their Film Focus: Jessica Lange box set with Crimes of the Heart. Even if the supplements may not be as substantial as other films on this set, there’s plenty to enjoy between the feature and supplemental material, and a must-have in your physical media collection.

Written by Robert Chipman

Robert is a lifelong cinephile and has had an admiration with film for as long as he can remember. When he's not checking out the most recent theatrical release, viewing a movie on one of a 1,000,000,000 streaming services or picking up the latest physical media disc, he's trying and failing to make it in Hollywood as a screenwriter. He also has a weird fascination with Stephen Dorff. Make of that what you will. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

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