DVD Review: ‘Georgia O’Keeffe’ Showcases Two Great Actors

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CHICAGO – A TV movie that’s slightly light on substance and presented in a downright ugly standard DVD presentation, “Georgia O’Keeffe” is still well worth seeking out for it features one of the best actors and one of the best actresses currently alive in Jeremy Irons and Joan Allen, both nominated for multiple awards for their work in this film and both at the top of their game.

HollywoodChicago.com DVD Rating: 3.5/5.0
DVD Rating: 3.5/5.0

Tell me what you miss and I’ll get it for you.” This is merely one example of the lovestruck repartee between photographer Alfred Stieglitz (Irons) and O’Keeffe (Allen), a woman who would go on to be remembered as one of the most important painters of the 20th century and the man who arguably used her as much as he inspired her. The film about O’Keeffe chronicles her artistic life by paralleling it with the love-hate dynamic with the photographer who saw the talent she held within.

Georgia O'Keeffe was released on DVD on April 27th, 2010.
Georgia O’Keeffe was released on DVD on April 27th, 2010.
Photo credit: Sony

Of course, not all was perfect in the world of Georgia and Alfred and director Bob Balaban’s film gets more dramatic as O’Keeffe suffers a breakdown after learning of her husband’s fidelity and discovers herself and her work again in New Mexico. With strong supporting work by Ed Begley Jr., Kathleen Chalfant, Henry Simmons, and Tyne Daly, this Lifetime TV movie was nominated for Golden Globes (Actress, Actor, Motion Picture Made For Television), the Directors Guild of America Award, the Producers Guild of America Award, the Writers Guild of America Award, two Screen Actors Guild Awards for both stars, and even an NAACP Image Award. It’s not hard to see why.

Georgia O'Keeffe was released on DVD on April 27th, 2010.
Georgia O’Keeffe was released on DVD on April 27th, 2010.
Photo credit: Sony

It is immediately apparent that “Georgia O’Keeffe” doesn’t look like a TV movie. It has the production value of a theatrical release or something that you’d expect to see on HBO. Having said that, the film still gets trapped by its origins but mostly in the fact that writer Michael Cristofer needed to stick to a limited running time (89 minutes — a two hour block with commercials). Georgia O’Keeffe simply led too much life to be crammed into less than two hours and the film clearly would have been stronger with more dramatic room to breathe.

But the jerky pacing, episodic structure, and lack of build-up to key moments in O’Keeffe’s life do nothing to minimize the accomplishments of Allen and Irons. He hasn’t been this good in at least a decade and Allen karmically makes up for “Death Race” with a performance that reminds us why she’s a three-time Oscar nominee.

Sadly, the Sony-produced DVD for “Georgia O’Keeffe” is a stinker. The video transfer in 1.78:1 widescreen simply stinks. The line detail is horrible, the colors aren’t mixed right, and the film looks twenty-five years old. Sony is a big enough company and this is a highly-lauded enough film that a Blu-ray release doesn’t seem too much to ask. As for special features, all that’s included is a featurette called “Portrait of an Artist: The Making of Georgia O’Keeffe”. It would have been nice to learn more historical background about O’Keeffe or learned more about Irons and Allen’s techniques. For now, just watching their performances will have to do.

‘Georgia O’Keeffe’ is released by Sony Pictures Home Video and stars Joan Allen, Jeremy Irons, Ed Begley Jr., Kathleen Chalfant, Linda Emond, Henry Simmons, and Tyne Daly. It was written by Michael Cristofer and directed by Bob Balaban. The DVD was released on April 27th, 2010. It is not rated.

HollywoodChicago.com content director Brian Tallerico

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