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Featured DVD Review: Inside Out

March 28th, 2012

Inside Out - Buy from Amazon

About a month ago I reviewed a film called Inside Out. When it arrived, I didn't remember requesting it, but it was a heist movie involving Nazi gold and Telly Savalas, so I wasn't surprised I make a request. However, it turns out I didn't. I had requested Inside Out, a film from 1986 starring Elliott Gould as an agoraphobic. Obviously the two films have nothing in common except the names, but will this one be as good as the other?

The Movie

Elliott Gould stars as Jimmy Morgan, whom we meet as he's watching football on TV and ordering in Chinese food. He had a bad night losing big on the Monday night game, and he has the empty wine bottles to show for it, but he looks to bounce back with a boxing match later that week. In the short-term, he plans to get over his loss with a visit from his drug dealer, Jerry, and from an escort, Amy. (Neither of these choices impress his housekeeper, Verna.) Fortunately, Jimmy has plenty of money from the business he inherited from his father and now jointly runs with his father's former business partner, Leo (Dana Elcar).

At least that's the situation at the beginning of the movie. We find out quite quickly that the business is not doing quite as well as he thought and that a lot of money is going to a company he never heard of. It turns out the papers he has been signing for Leo were not routine loans. This of course causes even more anxiety in his life, making it harder to spend time with his daughter, Heather (Nicole Nourmand), from his failed marriage. He buys her a puppy, but can't go to the park with her and her new dog. And when he best friend from L.A., Jack, comes by to visit, he can't muster any real enthusiasm.

The news quickly goes from bad to much, much worse, as his anxiety about his financial future only accelerates his self-destructive behaviors. But those details are spoilers, so we will end the plot summary there.

This film has some really good strengths, including excellent performances by Elliott Gould, Jennifer Tilly, and Howard Hesseman. It also deals with a subject that is difficult and does so very well. It shows what an agoraphobic's life could be like without being too heavy-handed or exploitative. There are two scenes that really stand out in this regard. Firstly, Jimmy's attempt to go outside onto his patio and having a panic attack even though he was barely outside. And secondly, when Jack confronted Jimmy over his agoraphobia, which Jimmy had managed to keep secret up till then. The agoraphobia is not the only factor in Jimmy's live, albeit a major one, but his gambling addiction is also a driving force.

There were some pretty serious faults with the film as well. It had pacing issues and felt episodic for a lot of the movie. Additionally, the ending was a little too easy. It's like the writer / director, Robert Taicher, really wanted a happy ending, but film didn't naturally build up to one.

The Extras

It's a DVD-R with absolutely no extras, no subtitles, no proper chapters. (The forward and back button just advance or return the film to the nearest 10-minute mark.

The Verdict

Inside Out is a slow drama that offers a number of good performances and a script that deals with a difficult subject matter in a careful way. It's worth checking out, but with a featureless DVD, it's probably better as a rental.

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