Follow us on

Featured Blu-ray / DVD Review: Rosewater

February 9th, 2015

Rosewater - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray Combo Pack

Rosewater is Jon Stewart's directorial debut and it is coming out on the home market the same week John Oliver's show returned to HBO. I wonder if that is a coincidence? As for the movie itself, it opened in a very awkward theater count and it struggled at the box office, but still managed $3 million overall. Is it worth checking out for those interested in Jon Stewart's directorial debut? Is it good regardless of who was behind the camera?

Before I get to the movie, I have a controversial opinion to express. I think Last Week Tonight is better than The Daily Show. There are two reasons for this, one of which is in the names. The writers of Last Week Tonight have a lot more time to get in-depth in their stories than the writers have of The Daily Show have. Additionally, Last Week Tonight is on HBO, so they don't have to work around commercial breaks. This allows the show to spend, for example, 17 minutes talking about Big Pharma marketing to doctors. In comparison, if you don't count commercials and credits, The Daily Show is only 20 minutes in total with regular breaks that would interrupt the flow making doing an in-depth story nearly impossible.

The Movie

The film is about Maziar Bahari, here played by Gael Garcia Bernal, a journalist. The film begins with him remembering a couple of events from his childhood and how the smell rosewater came into play.

The film then switches to 2009 in Iran where an election is being held and Maziar Bahari is there as a reporter. He is staying with his mother while covering the election. One day early in the morning, men come into the home to question him looking through his belongings for anything that might be against the law, like Leonard Cohen records. They decide The Sopranos must be porn and he's arrested.

The film then flashes back 11 days to London where Maziar Bahari is packing to go to Iran, leaving behind his pregnant fiancée. He's being paid by Newsweek to go to Iran in interview people in the lead up to the election, which is expected to be close and it might actually end with Ahmadinejad losing to the challenger, Mousavi. While there, Maziar meets supporters of both men, including Davood, who he pays to be his driver and who wants to show Maziar the real Iran. While there, Maziar also does an interview for The Daily Show with Jason Jones. In the interview, Jason Jones refers to Maziar as a spy, a terrorist, and in an unseen question, a Jew. Typical stuff for The Daily Show.

During the elections, Maziar films the process and we hear polling suggests Mousavi will win with relative ease. However, Maziar gets a call from an Ahmadinejad supporter telling him Ahmadinejad has won in a landslide. When Maziar tries to investigate, he's blocked by the military. Later, after Ahmadinejad is declared the winner, Maziar decides to stay to cover the protests. At first the protests are mostly peaceful, but that doesn't last. Unfortunately, getting footage of the violent government crackdown out of the country and to the world makes him an enemy of the Iranian government.

This is when the film returns to the scenes in the beginning of the movie and it also jumps into spoiler territory.

I think when it comes to judging Rosewater, it is important to remember that while the subject matter certainly makes it feel like an Oscar-bait movie, as Oscar voters love biopics, it isn't really Oscar-quality. If you go in expecting an Oscar-worthy film, then you will likely be disappointed. The movie is too earnest and too moderate to be challenging. (Then again, neither is The Theory of Everything, The Imitation Game, and especially American Sniper, but they all earned a ton of Oscar nods.) That said, compared to most movies I've seen, it is very well done. The acting is excellent with Gael Garcia Bernal anchoring this film. He is called upon to deliver humor and pathos and is equally skilled at both. He is also in 90% of the movie, often times it's him alone, so without a solid central performance, this film would have failed. I'm also very impressed that this is Jon Stewart's directorial debut. For a first film, it is expertly staged and filmed. His adaptation of Maziar Bahari's book manages to keep the seriousness of the situation, while maintaining a sense of humor and much needed hope. Overall, I highly recommend the movie.

The Extras

At first glance, the extras look are better than most limited releases with five featurettes. However, these are all less than 1 minute long. There's no depth here and somehow feels worse than having no extras at all.

The technical presentation is excellent, is most regards. The level of detail is fantastic, as are the black levels. The film was shot digitally, so this is not surprising. However, much of the film takes place in a prison and prisons are not known for their colorful décor, so you don't get a lot of scenes with really vibrant colors. Obviously you can't hold that against the video transfer, but it is worth mentioning. Likewise, the audio isn't the most dynamic track I've heard, but there is enough activity in the surround sound speakers to be a real asset.

The Blu-ray combo pack costs $25, which is $5 or 25% more than the DVD. This is an excellent deal for this type of release.

The Verdict

Rosewater is an excellent movie and even though the DVD and the Blu-ray Combo Pack have almost no extras, it is worth picking up.

- Submitted by:

Filed under: Video Review, The Theory of Everything, Rosewater, Gael Garcia Bernal, John Oliver, Jon Stewart, Claire Foy, Jason Jones, Maziar Bahari, Dimitri Leonidas