The Thing Called Love: Director's Cut Peter Bogdanovich

The Thing Called Love is a movie that veers in and out of your consciousness — just when you’ve written it off as a pile of clichés, it manages to reach out and grab you, and just when you feel it’s back on track, it falls off the horse completely. Samantha Mathis stars as a country music hopeful who makes the trip from New York City to Nashville. She naturally falls in with a group of other misfit wannabes, including miscreant River Phoenix (in one of his last roles), romantic sap Dermot Mulroney and a talentless Sandra Bullock. Mathis, of course, sinks into depression when it seems that she has no chance and falls for the spectacularly undependable Phoenix, while Mulroney pines for her from the sidelines and Bullock provides comic relief. It’s so confined to one microcosm that it often seems too circumscribed: the open mic watering hole where our heroine yearns to perform seems to be the only live venue in all of Nashville, while the other characters seem more quick sketched than fleshed out, with Bullock playing far too broadly for comfort. Still, there’s melodramatic goodness in this movie and a genuine respect for the material that you’d expect from the director of The Last Picture Show. If it doesn’t quite hang together the way it ought to, you don’t feel ripped off in the end; it’s a glimpse of what might happen if Peter Bogdanovich was ever given a real script again. Extras include a commentary by Bogdanovich that teems with detail, a decent enough "making of” doc, a slightly less decent examination of the film’s look, and a sincere tribute to the late River Phoenix. (Paramount)