Last Orders


Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment, $24.95

"The next time you see this film—and I hope you will see it more than once—you will start crying somewhere in this scene," director Fred Schepisi says with uncommon prescience about a wrenching hospital scene between lifelong pals Jack (Michael Caine) and Ray (Bob Hoskins.)

What a dream Schepisi must be for actors, a generous artist whose emotions are as unabashedly available to his cast as they are on his commentary track to Last Orders (on disc Aug. 13). Murmuring along like the film's bass clarinet, he suggests that Graham Swift's Booker Prize-winning novel spoke deeply to all five of these former East Londoners (including Tom Courtenay, David Hemmings, and Ray Winstone), men for whom these working-class surroundings were "in their very souls." Michael Caine signed on, sighing, "I knew I'd be playing my bloody father one day." (Presumably Helen Mirren had only acting to rely on, as she gives the film its tender center.)

Whatever its cast tapped into, Swift's deceptively simple story with a fluid time frame covering 60 years has become a near miracle of delicacy and understanding. In outline, it's the last journey of one of four "mates" who has asked that his ashes be scattered at the Margate seacoast, a trip on which his son drives but that his wife (Mirren) declines for complicated reasons. Actually, it's a cheerfully bawdy, profoundly moving study of lifelong love and friendships in a world that's inexplicably changing.

Considering Orders' National Board of Review Best Ensemble Performance award, it's a pity Schepisi's actors couldn't also lend their voices to this relatively bare-bones DVD.

Sheila Benson

Another actors' showcase debuts on disc Aug. 13 with In the Bedroom (sorry, no extras). On the same date, Nicole Kidman goes Russian in Birthday Girl and Jackie Chan's The Accidental Spy reaches disc after previously having been scheduled for theatrical release—draw your own conclusions. Fox is putting out some old Shirley Temple movies and several classic Richard Rodgers-scored musicals—Carousel, The King and I, Oklahoma!, etc.—to celebrate the centenary of the composer's birth. Crap alert! The inexplicable film career of D.J. Qualls continues with The New Guy, and the Eddie Murphy- Robert De Niro debacle Showtime also arrives.


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