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Featured DVD Review: Peacock

April 16th, 2010

Peacock - Buy from Amazon

Yet another A Direct-to-DVD release. This is the third such film in a row that I've reviewed. Four if you count Three Kingdoms, which was a foreign import, so there's mitigating circumstances there. Five if you count Tenderness, which only played in one theater for one week, so it was practically a direct-to-DVD offering. A lot of times these films were dumped onto the home market because they just didn't have what it takes to pull in moviegoers theatrically. But occasionally the direct-to-DVD market will produce a undiscovered gem. Can Peacock be one such film?

The film takes place in the 1950s and is set in a small town in Nebraska called Peacock. It starts with a woman, Emma, quickly getting ready for the day. She pulls in the laundry from the line, makes a bagged lunch, prepared a casserole for dinner, cooks breakfast, and leaves a note. She then takes the time to look out of the window, making sure not to be seen. As the clock nears 8:15, she makes she everything is in its place, returns to her bedroom, takes off her makeup and wig, undresses, and becomes John. He's eats the breakfast, reads the note, heads off to work, but before he goes he sneaks into his secret stash for a candy bar and a pack of baseball cards, careful to not let "her" see him. At work he's kept busy but doesn't like it when his boss tries to socialize. He cashes his paycheck and sticks the money in his safety deposit box. On the way home, he stops by the store, as per the note Emma left him, and grabs some more candy bars and some packs of baseball cards, in a separate bag, so "she" doesn't find out.

You get the feeling that he's been leading this quiet, double life for a long time without anyone knowing. However, that changes when a freak railway accident sends a caboose into his backyard while Emma is taking in the laundry. For the first time, neighbors see her and assume she's John's wife. This sets of a chain of events that has Emma meeting more and more people and enjoying a sense of freedom outside the home, which is a bit of a problem for John.

Why did this movie not get a theatrical release? Granted, it's too out-there to expand, but this is the kind of film that should thrive in limited release. It deals with a number of difficult subjects. It has amazing performances from the entire cast. Cillian Murphy is a stand out as John / Emma, but Susan Sarandon and Ellen Page are also fantastic. And of course, they have a stellar script to work with. The film makes you sympathize with the two personalities and their conflicting storyarcs. As Emma starts to interact with the community at large, she quite enjoys metamorphosis. But of course, the more she exists outside the home, the less John can. You know something has to break, but the script never lets you know in advance where it's going, right up till the end. (In fact, the ending is quite ambiguous. Although, not as much as the alternative ending on the special features menu.) I will concede that it moves slowly, but it is worth your patience.

On a side note, Cillian Murphy looks more like a woman before he shaves his eyebrows and becomes Emma full time.

Extras on the DVD start with an alternate ending, which is very similar to the one used in the final cut, only more ambiguous. There is also a making of a featurette called Welcome to Peacock. There is a three-minute behind-the-scenes look at Cillian Murphy rehearsing and trying to find the right notes to his character. Finally, there are four deleted scenes running a running time of four minutes, with intros on title cards. (There is also a DVD-Rom extra, the original script.)

I would have loved to hear an audio commentary with the director / co-writer, Michael Lander, and the star, but what we get is worth checking out.

The Verdict

It's a real shame Peacock never earned a theatrical release, as it is worth seeing. Hopefully people will check it out and not dismiss it because it is being released Direct-to-DVD. Additionally, while the DVD isn't loaded with extras, there is certainly more than enough here to lift it from a rental to a solid purchase.

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Filed under: Video Review, Peacock