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One True Thing/B+,A-

Universal/1998/128m/ANA 1.85

   Dealing with disease often consigns movies to "Disease of the Week Hell." One True Thing may revolve around a family member battling cancer, but it is not about the disease but about family. The dynamics of the family are what drive One True Thing and the disease is merely the device to trigger the mechanism to look under one family’s perfect veneer.
     George Gulden is the pampered American Literature Department university chair arrogantly charming his way through a career highlighted by a National Book Award for criticism. Lingering in the background is the novel he never completed while his a new edition of his collected essays is being prepared for publication. Ellen is the daughter driven to follow in her father’s footsteps carving her way through the internecine big time magazine world. Kate is the faithful wife, catering to George and giving herself to heart and home without reservation. When George demands that Ellen come back home to take care of her mother the cracks in the lacquered family structure show up. What makes One True Thing most interesting is the way it shifts focus between the varied relationships in the family. Just when you think this movie is all about Ellen’s relationship to her father, the exploration shifts to mother/daughter with a sprinkling of husband/wife. The family picture is built with careful attention to detail. The characters are true to the cinematic world they inhabit.
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Silent night for The MinniesİUniversal

     Carl Franklin directs One True Thing with admirable restraint. Franklin consistently looks for the little moments instead of going melodramatic. The camera always knows where to be without calling attention to itself. He guides his actors through performances that consistently reach to inner emotions. Meryl Streep not only digs deep within herself as Kate, but she exposes everything an actress must fear; looking miserable in bed clothes with red rimmed dark shadowed eyes and looking ridiculous dressed as Dorothy Gale from The Wizard of Oz. Well, you can bet Streep is up to the task.It's one of her best performances and that's really saying something.  It’s great to see Streep paired with another female screen force, Renee Zellweger. The young actress can holds her own with veterans Streep and William Hurt. She has a difficult role dealing with emotions sheathed in an icy core, but the beauty of this actress is that she can convey something beyond surface superficialities. William Hurt is so self-centered in One True Thing, it’s hard to understand what he might be feeling except sorry for himself.
     One True Thing make its DVD debut with a visual honesty consistent with the film’s material. The simple and direct photography is sharply transferred with excellent color accuracy. The picture packs plenty of punch with the marvelous town Christmas tree pageant glistening with tears and snowflakes. Detail is positively cruel to Meryl Streep revealing the pain and devastation in her eyes. The Dolby Digital 5:1 sound is fine. Dialogue is clean and well balanced. The surround information is not very active, but it conveys the feeling of place and space. Included with the DVD is a Spotlight on Location short with views about the film from  the principals involved. It's a cut above the usual short since it rarely has a moment without some commentary over the action.