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Down the Shore Blu-ray Review

Down the Shore (2013) Blu-ray Disc cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Down the Shore

Video Debut: April 9, 2013 / Running Time: 93 Minutes / Rating: R

Director: Harold Guskin / Writer: Sandra Jennings

Cast: James Gandolfini (Bailey Euler), Famke Janssen (Mary Reed), Edoardo Costa (Jacques Sardi), Joe Pope (Wiley Reed), John Magaro (Martin Reed), Maria Dizzia (Susan Euler), Chani Sabaty (Madame Montousse), Kate Skinner (Terri the bartender), A.J. Pope (Kid on the Ride), Michael Gandolfini (Kid on the Ride), Orange County Choppers (Bar Band)

1.78:1 Widescreen, Dolby TrueHD 5.1 (English)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish / Not Closed Captioned
Suggested Retail Price: $24.99
Single-sided, single-layered disc (BD-25) / Blue Eco-Friendly Keepcase
Also available on DVD ($22.98 SRP) and Instant Video

Buy Down the Shore from Amazon.com: Blu-ray DVD Instant Video

You don't expect a James Gandolfini movie called Down the Shore to open in Paris with no Gandolfini in sight, but that is merely the first of numerous surprises this independent film offers. Shore begins like a romantic comedy,
with American tourist Susan (Maria Dizzia) hitting it off with Jacques (Edoardo Costa), the charming Italian-French operator of an old-fashioned merry-go-round. Mere moments and three off-screen months later, Jacques turns up in New Jersey to inform one Bailey Euler (Gandolfini) that Susan -- Jacques' wife and Bailey's sister -- is dead.

The friendly Frenchman elicits suspicion from Bailey, which we the viewer share to a degree. The screenplay by playwright Sandra Jennings, her first in nearly twenty years and first not written for television, is slow to reveal character backstories and motives, withholding the contents of Susan's final letter to her brother until the very end. We remain in the dark about the focal characters, given ample time to make guesses about the skeletons in their closet.

Winter or not, friends, neighbors, and former flames Mary Reed (Famke Janssen) and Bailey Euler (James Gandolfini) enjoy being "Down the Shore."

It is a winter of discontent for Bailey and his close friend, longtime next-door neighbor and one-time girlfriend Mary (Famke Janssen). Bailey runs old, barely functioning, scarcely-attended Kiddie Land, with occasional assistance from Mary's autistic teenaged son Marty (John Magaro). Jacques, whose legal claim to half of Bailey's house draws understandable scorn, brings his carnival experience and expertise to the fairgrounds and his charismatic showmanship drums up some business.
That only inspires the park's landlord, Mary's husband and Bailey's best friend Wiley (Joe Pope) to demand an extra $500/week. Possibly abusive and a confirmed user of crack, Wiley the creep makes his every scene uncomfortable. One wonders what Mary and Bailey ever saw in the guy and what could inspire either one of them to continue associating with him.

Answers do come, but not before they absolutely must. Making his directorial debut, longtime acting and dialect coach Harold Guskin allows us to simply bask in the atmosphere of a chilly, dilapidated former tourist hotspot and speculate on the history lurking over these damaged individuals' heads. That is not the chore it might sound like, since the sullen characters win our interest and sympathy. The film feels like a play and, with little effort, it could be one, should Jennings have gone that route. For that matter, the premise also could have been the springboard for a sitcom; one's from Paris, one's from New Jersey... now they live together and run a carousel! You'll be hard-pressed to find a laugh out of these burdened characters, however, as brought to life by capable performances and believable writing.

Ironic given the director's background, Gandolfini sports a weird accent that comes and goes. Janssen, not an obvious choice for this kind of movie or this setting, blends into her part convincingly. Costa, an Italian with limited English language experience (including Live Free or Die Hard and "The Bold and the Beautiful"), pulls off the dual ethnicity the movie curiously asks of him. Pope, who is also the film's producer, makes you not want to see him again, which may be the intended effect for the film (though possibly not his career).

The colorful, romantic Parisian prologue involving Jacques (Edoardo Costa) and Susan (Maria Dizzia) is both essential to and disjointed from the rest of the film. The loathsome Wiley (Joe Pope) is not a character you'll enjoy spending time with.

Shot back in early 2008 with the working title Kiddie Ride and first screened at the Palm Springs International Film Festival in January 2011, Down the Shore is apparently getting the bare minimum of a theatrical engagement on Friday, four days before hitting DVD and Blu-ray from Anchor Bay Entertainment.

VIDEO and AUDIO

Seemingly by design, Down the Shore maintains a slightly grainy, gritty look. The Blu-ray's 1.78:1 widescreen picture is otherwise clean, sharp, and well-defined. The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack is also without issue,
though it really only gets your attention in a thunderstorm scene. English SDH and Spanish subtitles are included.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

There are no bonus features beyond the trailer for Border Run with which the disc opens.

The menu places listings with colored carnival lights over a standard montage of clips set to the end credits' piano score. Par for an Anchor Bay Blu-ray, the disc does not resume unfinished playback, but does allow you to place bookmarks on the film.

The eco-friendly blue keepcase lacks any inserts, slipcovers, or reverse side artwork, but the disc itself at least adapts the cover art into a full-color label.

The Jersey Shore's Kiddie Land finds Europeans and Americans filling balloons for your enjoyment.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Between its dreary atmosphere and lack of a gripping, easily-described plot, Down the Shore is not a film that will really attract and excite viewers. But though slow and shrewdly structured, it's a competently made little drama you won't regret giving 90 minutes of your time. Anchor Bay's Blu-ray offers just the movie and nothing further to enhance your appreciation of it. It seems inevitable that the disc that will not sell many copies or reach many people beyond the lead actors' most devoted fans. The film deserves a slightly better reception than that.

Buy Down the Shore from Amazon.com: Blu-ray / DVD / Instant Video

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Famke Janssen: Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters The Faculty
Win Win City Island Jack Goes Boating The Station Agent Adventureland The Last Station

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Reviewed March 31, 2013.



Text copyright 2013 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2013 Anchor Bay Entertainment, Jersey Shore Films, Pope Film, and Crystal Edge.
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