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Doubt/Music of the Heart/Marvin's Room/House of the Spirits [2 Discs] [DVD]

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Overview

Synopsis

Marvin's Room
Two sisters try to set their familial differences aside -- one in hopes of saving her own life -- in this drama with comic accents. Bessie (Diane Keaton) has lived in Florida for the past 20 years, where she's been caring for her chronically ill father Marvin (Hume Cronyn) and her Aunt Ruth (Gwen Verdon), who does not seem well aquatinted with reality. While Bessie's life has not been easy, she feels that it's rewarding in its way, and she's come to love her father very much. However, when Bessie is diagnosed with cancer, she's told that the only treatment likely to save her would be a bone marrow transplant from a close relative -- which leads Bessie to contact her sister Lee (Meryl Streep) for the first time since their father fell ill. Bessie and Lee have a number of issues with each other that they've never resolved, many concerning their responses to Marvin's illness (Bessie rushed to his side, while Lee preferred to stay away), and Lee's own life has been difficult. She's gotten herself out of a bad marriage, has only recently started supporting herself as a beautician, and has to raise two kids on her own. Ten-year-old Charlie (Hal Scardino) tries to simply ignore the chaos going on all round him, while Hank (Leonardo DiCaprio), a troubled 17-year-old, was recently institutionalized after burning down the family's home. As the straight-laced Bessie and the earthy Lee reestablish contact after two decades, they discover just how much emotional ground they have to cover before they can meet on common ground. Robert De Niro appears in a supporting role as Dr. Wally, Bessie's physician. Marvin's Room was based on the stage drama by Scott McPherson, which opened in 1990; McPherson himself was critically ill at the time -- he died two years later from complications relating to AIDS. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi

Music of the Heart
After devoting his career to such horror films as Scream, A Nightmare on Elm Street, and Last House on the Left, director Wes Craven makes a dramatic change of pace with this inspiring drama about a teacher who helps change the lives of her students. Roberta Guaspari-Tzavaras (Meryl Streep) teaches at an elementary school in Harlem, where discipline is a higher priority than the lively arts. But Roberta believes that studying music will give the children a sense of purpose invaluable in later life. Despite indifference from the school administration and budget cuts that force her to seek outside funding (and even threaten her job), Roberta struggles to teach the violin to her students, instilling a love of classical music in kids who might otherwise never have heard Bach or Mozart, and leading to a student recital at Carnegie Hall. Angela Bassett, Cloris Leachman, and Aidan Quinn highlight the supporting cast, and virtuoso violinists Isaac Stern, Itzhak Perlman, and Mark O'Connor appear as themselves. The Music of the Heart is based on a true story; the real Roberta Guaspari-Tzavaras and her students can be seen in the documentary Small Wonders. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi

The House of the Spirits
Bille August directed this film version of the Isabel Allende novel, featuring a cast that includes Jeremy Irons, Meryl Streep, and Glenn Close. The story is a sweeping and brooding melodrama, spanning generations and filled with violence, revenge, and telekinesis. The tale begins in South America in 1926, when a young man, Esteban (Jeremy Irons), falls in love with the daughter of a rich man, Rosa Del Valle (Teri Polo). He vows to become rich enough to make her his wife and spends months of toil in the gold fields to earn enough money to do just that. Before the two marry, however, Rosa is killed by poison meant for her father. After the tragedy, Esteban moves to Trés Marias, an abandoned ranch, and spends 20 years of his life turning the ranch into a thriving estate, exploiting the labor of the poor who live off the land. When he returns to the city, he comes across Rosa's younger sister Clara (Meryl Streep), now a woman with telekinetic abilities. Clara took a vow of silence years before, but upon the arrival of Esteban, she speaks for the first time in years -- "You have come to propose marriage to me," she says. Esteban and Clara marry, and Esteban takes her back to the ranch, where they have a daughter, Blanca (Winona Ryder). Their daughter falls in love with the son of one of Esteban's foremen, a hot-headed revolutionary named Pedro (Antonio Banderas). Now, the country is in the throes of revolution. Esteban banishes his sister Ferula (Glenn Close) from the ranch, beats his wife, and rapes a peasant woman. The product of Esteban's rape (Joaquin Martinez) grows into an angry young man who convinces Esteban to send him away to military school. When there is a military coup, the illegitimate son returns to Trés Marias with revenge and torture on his mind. ~ Paul Brenner, Rovi

Doubt
When the principal (Meryl Streep) of a Bronx Catholic High School accuses a popular priest (Philip Seymour Hoffman) of pedophilia, a young nun caught in between the feuding pair becomes hopelessly swept up in the ensuing controversy. 1964, St. Nicholas, the Bronx: The winds of change are sweeping through this tight-knit religious community, and charismatic priest Father Flynn (Philip Seymour Hoffman) is doing his best to adapt by revisiting the school's notoriously strict disciplinary practices. Unfortunately Father Flynn's progressive ideas stand in stark contrast to the longstanding beliefs of Sister Aloysius Beauvier (Meryl Streep), the iron-willed principal, who believes that an oppressive environment of punishment and fear is the only way to keep the student body in line. Suddenly into this tempestuous environment appears young Donald Miller, St. Nicholas' first black student. When hopeful innocent Sister James (Amy Adams) reluctantly reveals to Sister Beauvier that Father Flynn and Donald have been spending an unusual amount of time together in the church rectory, the unrelentingly righteous headmistress begins a merciless crusade to reveal the beloved clergyman as a lecherous child molester and have him permanently expunged from the school. Yet despite her moral certainty that Father Flynn has committed such an unspeakable transgression, Sister Beauvier has not a shred of actual evidence to back up her audacious claim. Now, as Sister Beauvier and Father Flynn enter into an epic battle of wills, the shock waves set into motion by their explosive confrontation threaten to destroy one man's reputation and tear apart the entire surrounding community. John Patrick Shanley adapted his own play for the screen under the guidance of producer Scott Rudin (The Queen, Notes on a Scandal). ~ Jason Buchanan, Rovi

Cast & Crew

  • Meryl Streep
    Meryl Streep - Lee
  • Leonardo DiCaprio
    Leonardo DiCaprio - Hank
  • Diane Keaton
    Diane Keaton - Bessie
  • Robert De Niro
    Robert De Niro - Dr. Wally
  • Hume Cronyn
    Hume Cronyn - Marvin
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