Sophie’s Choice (1982)
Director: Alan J. Pakula
Starring: Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline & Peter MacNicol
Released by: Shout! Factory
Reviewed by Mike Kenny
Based on the best-selling novel by William Styron, Director Alan J. Pakula (All the President’s Men) brought to life this heartbreaking tale of friendship and the secrets we keep. Starring Meryl Streep (Doubt), in an Academy Award winning performance, this exhilarating tale is complimented with powerhouse performances that will leave you in awe. Shout! Factory, in association with ITV Studios, proudly presents Sophie’s Choice in a much deserved collector’s edition. Ranked #91 in AFI’s Greatest 100 Movies of All Time 2007 list, Sophie’s Choice is a masterwork from all the parties involved.
Set in post-World War II Brooklyn, Sophie’s Choice stars Meryl Streep as Sophie Zawistowska, a Polish-Catholic immigrant who survived a Nazi concentration camp. Living with her middle-aged Jewish boyfriend, Nathan (Kevin Kline), the couple befriend their new neighbor, would-be writer Stingo (Peter MacNicol). As the couples’ drama unfolds and their bond with Stingo increases, hidden truths are slowly revealed.
Meryl Streep’s perfectionism to her craft has earned her a record 18 Academy Award nominations and three wins. Understandably, many consider her to be the greatest living actress with memorable roles in Out of Africa, Adaptation., and August: Osage County. With a career as illustrious as Streep’s, it becomes difficult to select a favorite let alone a flaw in her works. Streep’s magnificent turn in Sophie’s Choice is highlighted by her determination to master the Polish and German language in order to perfect her character’s accent. Almost immediately, the viewer forgets about Meryl Streep and only knows Sophie Zawistowska. Streep believably sells the role of a Polish-immigrant struggling with the English language in 1940s Brooklyn. Streep reportedly begged Pakula on her hands and knees for the role that was originally courting Magda Vásáryová. Sophie’s Jewish, Holocaust obsessed boyfriend, Nathan, is played with equal brilliance by Kevin Kline (The Big Chill), in his feature film debut. Kline’s energetic performance is akin to Jekyll and Hyde as he adores Sophie one minute and violently grows bitter, jealous and violent the next. A film debut of this caliber will remind audiences that Kline may have arguably, been the greatest acting discovery of the 1980s. Sophie and Nathan’s friendship with their new neighbor, Stingo (MacNicol), is the silver lining that bonds the trio. Texas born, Peter MacNicol (Ghostbusters II) made his film debut only a year earlier with 1981’s Dragonslayer before tackling this intense drama. A fine character actor with roles in Addams Family Values and Bean, MacNicol brings a breath of gravity to the film amongst his new friends’ complicated relationship. Destined to write the great American novel, Stingo finds himself swept up in Nathan’s bipolar-esque behavior while, falling for Sophie.
Bonds strengthen as Nathan’s outbursts become more frequent, resulting in the couples’ dark secrets being revealed. Stingo learns the truth behind Nathan’s alarming behavior while, Sophie confides in her new friend about her concentration camp experiences. Upon arriving at Auschwitz with her two children, a Nazi soldier forces Sophie with the impossible task of choosing which of one her children will be sent to death. The emotional impact of this haunting sequence will forever be rooted in your conscience. As Stingo’s love for Sophie becomes clear and their future together within reach, a darkness is cast over the conclusion to this emotionally-wound, perfectly acted character study. Sophie’s Choice sweeps the viewer into the trios’ relationship, showcasing the finer sides of true friendship and the dark secrets we all try to suppress. Beautifully shot and remarkably cast, Sophie’s Choice is a riveting drama and heartbreaking tragedy resulting in cinematic perfection.
Sophie’s Choice is presented with a 1080 transfer in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio. The film is rich with natural grain and accurate skin tones. Colors are striking and bold, if not, inconsistent at times. Stingo’s arrival at his new Brooklyn residence pops with bright green lawns and bushes while, dimly lit scenes in Sophie and Nathan’s apartment and Sophie’s time at Auschwitz relay a soft, (most likely) intentional lifeless color scheme. Moments of flecks and speckles are far and few between with close-ups looking most impressive. Sophie’s Choice has never had its fair due on home video but thankfully, Shout! Factory’s transfer is the finest its ever looked.
Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono mix, Sophie’s Choice is a character driven drama with much dialogue that is nicely and cleanly heard throughout. No cracks or distortion of any kind intrude, making this mix more than adequate.
- New Roundtable Discussion with Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline and More
- Audio Commentary with Director Alan J. Pakula
- Theatrical Trailer
- DVD Copy
Sophie’s Choice is a lengthy, period piece drama about the company we keep and the secrets we hold even closer. Never boring and always engaging, the combined efforts of the magnificent Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline (in one of the finest film debuts of all time) and the criminally underrated Peter MacNicol, make this tale of three unlikely friends one of the most impressive works of the decade. Handled with the utmost care, Shout! Factory have preserved this classic film in a worthy collector’s edition release. Matched with a lovely video transfer, crisp sound mix and wonderful special features including the fantastic roundtable discussion with the likes of Streep and Kline, Sophie’s Choice is the rare example of a perfect film that can now be better appreciated thanks to Shout! Factory’s impressive collector’s edition.