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 1995 film Losing Isaiah and is the final piece of a four-part review of the Film Focus: Jessica Lange 1982-1995 box set from Imprint Films.
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 Losing Isaiah.
As a disclaimer of transparency for this episode of Feature Presentations, my review of the Film Focus: Jessica Lange box set and the film Losing Isaiah comes from a copy Imprint Films provided for review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Movies with the best intentions are sometimes the hardest to review. You can tell those in front and behind the camera care about the subject manner; if you can’t pull off the topic, you risk creating a misfire of epic proportions, which brings me to Losing Isaiah, the subject of this edition of Feature Presentations.
Right from the get-go, Losing Isaiah gets off on the wrong foot. Khaila, a drug-addicted African-American mother, leaves her child in the trash while she abandons him to get her fix. Fortunately, before the child meets an untimely and unfortunate fate, he is rescued and adopted by the Lewin family, an upper-middle-class White household. Over time, Khaila works to get her life in order, which includes regaining custody of her son. From here on out, the film continuously bludgeons the audience over the head about racial divides, culminating in protracted courtroom scenes that, if you weren’t aware the film was trying to say something about race, the screenwriter almost spells it out for those in the back who weren’t listening.
The film raises sensitive topical questions, including class divide, infidelity, and the judicial system, yet takes these heady themes and wraps them up in a neat bow, giving itself a self-congratulating pat on the back for resolving its sensitive issues in a timely manner. As it is, Losing Isaiah flounders in an aura of self-importance and squanders a small but talented group of actors, headlined by Jessica Lange and Halle Berry. I will not knock a film for wearing its heart on its sleeve, even if it slides extremely close to the “white savior” trope. The good intentions are there and at hand, but when that hand is heavier than the topic itself, you have a problem.
Regarding the supplemental material, this Jessica Lange box set closes rather subtly. The sole bit of newly-commissioned bonus features, “Normal Messy Lives,” is an interview with production designer Jeannine Oppewall. Looking to be shot during her appearance on the Music Box disc, Oppewall goes over her work on the 1995 drama. She discusses using an archway as a point of Khaila as a new beginning, shooting the film’s confrontation sequence in a bathroom, and the less-than-enthusiastic reception to Losing Isaiah. The interview is short, but Oppewall packs the chat with enough information to make it worth checking out.
The remaining features consist of a brief EPK-style interview with Halle Berry conducted during the press tour for Losing Isaiah. There isn’t much information dispensed, and a chunk of the discussion focuses on Berry’s husband at the time, David Justice, and how the 1994 baseball strike affected his playing career. Everything closes out with the film’s theatrical trailer.
Since there wasn’t as much to discuss on this disc as the others, I wanted to share a few thoughts about the box housing these four films. Anyone who has experienced one of Imprint Films‘ knows the quality they put into each release. And Film Focus: Jessica Lange is no exception. I’ve always been a fan of minimalist designs and colors. When Imprint Films debuted this set with a simple black and silver, similar to their Jennifer Connelly, Gene Hackman, and George Peppard collections, it was a design I was looking for. The sturdy case features one image of Jessica Lange from each film in the set with striking black and silver colors. The sleek design pops in ways other collections with overdone designs and a mishmash of colors don’t. Beyond being a terrific assemblage of works highlighting the career of Jessica Lange, it’s got the look and feel of something truly premium, which it is.
And there you have it! While Losing Isaiah may have closed out the Film Focus: Jessica Lange box set in a subdued manner, don’t let that fool you into believing that this assortment is anything other than spectacular. Imprint Films gathered together a wide array of films that showcases the versatile talents of Jessica Lange and gave the actress a box set fitting for such an esteemed talent. Packed with plenty of new and archival bonus materials, if you love cinema, this is a must-own release and should be on your physical media shelf.