Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Donald Sutherland, Mary Tyler Moore, Judd Hirsch, Timothy Hutton
Director: Robert Redford
Audio: English Mono, French Mono
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio: Paramount
Features: Trailer
Length: 124 Minutes
Release Date: August 14, 2001

"A little advice about feeling, kid-o. Donít expect it to always tickle."

Film ****

Ordinary People was Robert Redfordís first outing as a director, and it remains his true masterpiece, even though heís made some fantastic films since then. In the twenty one years since its release, there has never been a more real and emotionally involving story concerning family problems. The family in this film is one going through a hidden tragic turn, though it is mostly disguised in the appearance of their happy suburban living lifestyle. The tragic turn is the loss of the familyís eldest son, and the three remaining family members have to face the music in terms of how they each feel about one another.

Following the death of his older brother, Buck, in a boat accident, emotionally torn Conrad, played magnificently by Timothy Hutton in a triumphant Oscar winning performance, is loaded with guilt and depression. He lives in continuous fear, and is under the assumption that he is not loved and appreciated by his mother (Mary Tyler Moore). His father (Donald Sutherland) on the other hand, is caring and loving of Conrad, but he is clearly trying to secretly and slowly push the past away from him and concentrate on events in the present.

Conrad, having just spent four months in a mental hospital following a suicide attempt, is still having trouble adjusting to life following his brotherís death. He then starts to see a psychiatrist (Judd Hirsch) twice a week after school. He blames himself for Buckís death. Heís also somewhat of an outcast at school because of both his suicide attempt and his following hospitalization. He does have a number of friends, including Karen (Dinah Manoff), a girl he met at the hospital, as well as Jeannine (Elizabeth McGovern), who attends a choir class with him. A potential girlfriend would be nice for Conrad, but at this point, thereís too much drama at home.

The film won four prestigious Oscars in 1980, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor, and Best Adapted Screenplay, all of which were enormously deserving. The emotions conveyed in Ordinary People is unquestionably real and authentic. The performances from Sutherland, Moore, and most notably Hutton are deeply and wonderfully moving. And the use of Johann Pachelbelís "Canon in D" blends in beautifully with the filmís dramatic core.

Masterfully directed and powerfully acted to the max, Ordinary People remains of the best dramatic movies ever made, as well as one of the most moving motion pictures of our time.

Video **

The transfer on Ordinary People is not of the top quality that I am so used to seeing from the folks at Paramount, but since the movie is twenty one years old, I really wasnít expecting a milestone look. I saw the movie not too long ago on a remastered videotape, and the transfer on that wasnít terrific either. It is anamorphic, at least, but the picture comes off soft looking for about 55% of the presentation.

Audio **1/2

The only audio track offered on this disc is presented in Mono, and I was kind of surprised by how good it sounded. Granted, it isnít a superior sounding disc, but given its age, itís better than I would expect. The music numbers, especially "Canon" come through rather nicely.

Features *

Only a trailer.


In the realm of dramatic movies, they donít get as emotionally involving as Ordinary People. Twenty one years after its release, it remains a dramatic filmmaking masterpiece.