True Love (Blu-ray Review)

  • Reviewed by: Dennis Seuling
  • Review Date: May 17, 2024
  • Format: Blu-ray Disc
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True Love (Blu-ray Review)


Nancy Savoca

Release Date(s)

1989 (April 30, 2024)


United Artists (Kino Lorber Studio Classics)
  • Film/Program Grade: A
  • Video Grade: A
  • Audio Grade: A
  • Extras Grade: C

True Love (Blu-ray)

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Romantic comedies generally follow a template: guy and gal meet cute, are attracted to one another, face an obstacle or two, and wind up living together happily ever after. True Love turns this structure inside out with a young couple who have been engaged for a while and now are planning their wedding.

Donna (Annabella Sciorra) and her fiancé, Michael (Ron Eldard), live with their big Italian-American families in a predominantly Italian-American neighborhood in the Morris Park section of the Bronx. Michael works for his cousin in a local Italian deli. Donna and Michael have been engaged for two years and still are crazy about each other, but now that their wedding is imminent, Michael’s feeling uneasy about the looming responsibilities of marriage. He has always enjoyed being with his buddies but now has begun spending inordinate amounts of time carousing and getting drunk with them, often when he should be with Donna.

As wedding preparations proceed, we come to see that this match may not be made in heaven. Michael lacks maturity and it’s doubtful whether he’ll be willing to prioritize a wife over longtime friends. In response, Donna has become more possessive, at one point demanding that Michael visit her after his bachelor party. Tension grows between the couple to such a pitch that they end up in yelling matches on the street.

Nevertheless, the wedding momentum is unstoppable. The church and priest have been booked and 200 guests invited. The elaborate bridal gown is all prepared. The hall is secured, a band hired, and a menu selected (including mashed potatoes dyed blue to match the bridesmaids’ dresses). Despite their misgivings, Donna and Michael have become comfortable with each other and uncomfortable with the idea of disappointing their relatives and friends.

Director Nancy Savoca delves into the complexity of this relationship. Are Michael and Donna really suited to each other or are their sometimes minor, sometimes major confrontations a red flag? Savoca is excellent at creating atmosphere in terms of locations, family, friends, and customs. You get the distinct feeling that the characters are real people from a Bronx neighborhood, from their distinctive accents to their fashion and hairstyle choices. A pizzeria, an Italian deli, a bar, a wedding hall, and even a ladies’ room at the wedding venue add tremendous flavor.

Performances are first rate. Sciorra is letter-perfect as the conflicted young woman on the verge of marriage to a guy who’s giving her second thoughts. She and Michael can cuddle and make love, but he can be thoughtless and unable to recognize it. She can be demanding and controlling. Clashes erupt, but director Savoca leaves it to us, the viewers, to determine whether these are normal bickerings or something deeper. Sciorra is especially moving in scenes when Michael’s choices have hurt her deeply. His wish to go out with his pals on their wedding night is the last straw and she breaks down in tears. Michael fails to realize how bizarre this request is. Her hurt finally penetrates Michael and causes him to reflect on his own behavior.

Eldard is spot-on perfect as the good-time buddy and all-around charmer. He projects Michael’s essential decency and love for Donna as well as his fears of the responsibilities and compromises marriage requires. We believe that Michael’s like a little boy lacking a life compass and cannot navigate this adult relationship intellectually or emotionally.

The supporting cast, including Aida Turturro, Vincent Pastore, Kelly Cinnante, Suzanne Costollos, Star Jasper, and Rick Shapiro, add wonderful color as the friends and family of Donna and Michael. Many in the cast were appearing in their first roles and would go on to portray various aspects of Italian-American life on TV and in movies over the next several decades.

More than a “slice of life,” True Love is a character-driven tale with depth and subtlety. Director Savoca presents arguments for and against the characters’ motivations and the ending of the film is ambiguous. This may be unsatisfactory to viewers who want plots to be neatly tied up but not to those who enjoy reflecting on the uncertainties and speculating on the paths these lives might take.

True Love was shot by director of photography Lisa Rinzler on 35 mm film with spherical lenses, and presented in the aspect ratio of 1.85:1. On the Blu-ray, the opening scene represents VHS home video taken by Donna’s father and has that old videotape look. Clarity and contrast for the rest of the film are very good and details are prominent, particularly in the wedding gown, bridesmaids’ dresses, floral arrangements, Bronx store signs, kitchen decor, elaborate wedding decorations in the ballroom, and the Italian deli. There are no perceptible imperfections, such as embedded dirt specks and scratches.

The soundtrack is English 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio. English SDH subtitles are an available option. Dialogue is clear and easily understood throughout. Care has been taken to cast actors who can speak with a distinctive New York-Italian accent, adding to the flavor of the film. Ambient noise during the wedding sequence is expertly blended so that dialogue remains clear. Songs make up the soundtrack and include, among others, No Pain (No Gain), Return to Me, Cupid, Ain’t It Funny, Heartbeat, Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Al Di La, Celebration, Eh Cumpari, and Right By Your Side.

Bonus materials on the Region A Blu-ray release from Kino Lorber Studio Classics include the following:

  • Audio Commentary by Nancy Savoca and Richard Guay
  • Interview with Music Supervisor Jeffrey Kimball (23:19)
  • Interview with Production Designer Lester Cohen (17:23)
  • Interview with Sound Editor Tim Squyres (13:26)
  • Interview with Editor John Tintori and Script Supervisor Mary Cybulski (41:29)
  • Theatrical Trailer (1:38)

Audio Commentary – Director Nancy Savoca and producer John Guay note that “every actor in New York” auditioned for True Love. Ron Eldard was cast shortly before filming began. The wedding sequence was the film’s most complex. It took five days to shoot with over 100 extras and was filmed with a single camera. Nowadays, at least four cameras would be used. Donna and Michael had to be performers at their own wedding, as the centerpiece of the festivities. One idea was to end the film with the couple’s first dance, which was eventually deemed a bad idea, giving the picture a neat, happy ending. This commentary is one of the weakest I’ve heard. Rather than offer behind-the-scenes information or interesting anecdotes about production, Savoca and Guay seem to be poorly prepared and are winging it. Every now and then they’ll recognize a specific location or a fact about a scene, but real information is sparse. There are long pauses without commentary.

Interview with Music Supervisor Jeffrey Kimball – Kimball was hired because of his knowledge of different eras and types of music. He describes his qualifications for the job, including a legal background that helped him secure rights for songs used in the film. He would present songs he felt were appropriate for various scenes, and director Nancy Savoca would make the final decision. Because RCA had great financial success with the Dirty Dancing soundtrack, the label was interested in releasing a True Love soundtrack, but RCA required two new songs. One of the new songs, Whole Wide World, was chosen because it had the same feel as Paula Abdul’s Straight Up. True Love has no traditional score, just a series of songs.

Interview with Production Designer Lester Cohen – Cohen met Nancy Savoca while they were both undergraduates in NYU’s film program. Savoca’s work was character-based. To arouse interest in the project, a trailer was made, money was raised, and finally the film was shot. Annabella Sciorra auditioned in response to an ad in Back Stage. Cohen knew the Bronx neighborhood. The borough was more provincial at the time, broken up like little villages with their own “customs and mores.” The bathroom at the wedding venue was the biggest challenge of the art department. It had to match the decor of the hall used for the wedding.

Interview with Sound Editor Tim Squyres – Squyres refers to True Love as a “fly-by-night” production. He had to recreate the ambience of the Italian neighborhood. When he added too many bird sounds, director Savoca asked that they be removed; she wanted a more urban-sounding background. The wedding scene was “tricky” in terms of sound mixing. Squyres had to keep the room lively but still allow the dialogue to be heard clearly. The only Foley effects used were footsteps. Sound editors often obsess over details in order to get them perfect. When True Love was made, standards didn’t have to be that high because certain extraneous sounds would not be heard on the optical track. Nowadays, with advanced recoding techniques, everything can be heard so greater care is essential.

Interview with Editor John Tintori and Script Supervisor Mary Cybulski – For many who worked on True Love, it was their first picture. Tintori and Cybulski discuss their early days working in film and talk about movies they made after True Love. Female audiences would tend to side with Michael, male audiences with Donna. The script originally had about 30 or 40 uses of the “f” word, used as adjective, adverb, verb and noun. Tintori was nervous watching the dailies because of the quantity of material. He made note of “gems”—great moments he wanted to use in the final film so he could edit them together to create the best possible scenes. The filmmakers wanted ambiguity at the conclusion of the film rather than a pat ending.

True Love is a film of humor and pathos. Its attractive leads draw us in as they plan to move from young singles to married couple. Nancy Savoca portrays the wedding preparations as a kind of test. Are Donna and Michael really suited to marriage? Can they handle the responsibility? Do they know each other well enough? The film avoids sappiness and cheap sentimentality, leaning more to soul searching while exposing the awkwardness and challenges of a big wedding. Sciorra, Eldard and a winning supporting cast take us through a difficult time as personality flaws, peer pressure and conflicting notions of marriage dominate the story.

- Dennis Seuling