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Permanent (2017)

Magnolia Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 4/2/2018

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Review by Mike Long, Posted on 4/1/2018

Here's a fact: "Slice-of-Life" movies are exactly what they sound like -- films which attempt to portray something which comes close to real-life. Most of these are dramedies which show that life can be funny and tragic, usually at the same time. Here's another fact: Some families are very unusual and don't fit into the idea of the status quo clan. It's not like there's anything actually wrong with them, they are simply quirky. When this kind of group is the subject of a "slice-of-life" movie, the results are either brilliant or cringe-worthy. Which way will Permanent skew?

The year is 1982 and Aurelie (Kira McLean) has just moved to Richmond, Virginia, as her father, Jim (Rainn Wilson), has retired from the military (where he served as a steward on Air Force One). Aurelie wants to change her look, so her mother, Jeanne (Patricia Arquette), takes her to local beauty school, where Aurelie receives a questionable permanent. She must now face the first day of school with an unruly head of hair. Not only is she the new kid, but she looks weird. Meanwhile, Jim has gone back to school, but he's concerned about the mandatory swimming test. Jeanne feels stuck in her life and wants to be able to express her soul.

Where do cult movies come from? Are they born? Are they created in a lab? If you ever come to my house and watch a weird film with me, you may hear one of my catch-phrases, "You can't make a cult movie." When someone goes out of their way to make an intentionally weird film, the movie often wreaks of desperation. Let's face it, not everyone can be David Lynch. It's clear that Writer/Director Colette wanted to create a film which showed as many unusual things as possible, but she may have bitten off more than she can chew here, as the movie quickly develops two big problems.

First of all, there are no likable characters. There are clearly villains in the movie and it's obvious that we aren't supposed to like them, but the main characters leave much to be desired as well. Aurelie has no personality and comes across as very under-developed character. Jim is stymied by his own insecurity and can be a jerk. Jeanne shows a tendency to be unfaithful and it's difficult to understand her motivations at times. The film's other big flaw is a lack of coherent story. The movie meanders from character-to-character, showing how everyone is having difficult adjusting to their new lives. A movie like this doesn't need a deep, convoluted plot, but some semblance of an over-arching narrative is nice. We similar watch Aurelie, Jim, and Jeanne go from one situation to another, delivering no sense of growth or tension. Also, the editing feels a bit off at times, as some things don't seem to happen in order.

While watching Permanent, one thought keep occurring over-and-over -- "This wants to be Napoleon Dynamite." From the main character with the weird hair, to the odd family, to the blonde nemesis, to the performance in front of the school which closes the film, this has Napoleon Dynamite written all over it. Unfortunately, Permanent has none of that film's charm or bizarre sense of humor. There are jokes in Permanent, but most of them fall flat, as they feel forced. And while everything in Napoleon Dynamite felt weird, it also had a streak of innocence and purity which made it feel genuine. Permanent can't manage to find its groove in that sense, and the whole thing comes across as an odd fantasy. Permanent has a lot of things going for it -- a compelling idea, two recognizable stars, and a somewhat solid finale -- but in its quest to be weird, it forgot to be engaging as well.

Permanent should have just been about Jim's time on Air Force One on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Magnolia Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at 28 Mbps. The image is sharp and clear, showing no overt grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look very good, as the movie features some nice 80s pastels, and the image is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail is good, but the picture is a bit flat at times. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 3.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. Being a dramedy, we don't get a lot of dynamic effects here. However, when Jim visits the indoor pool, there is a nice use of sound effects and echoes in the rear channels. There are also some moments where the front channels alert us to sounds coming from off-screen.

The Permanent contains a few extra features. "Getting Permanent with Rainn Wilson" (3 minutes) offers an interview with the actor, where he discusses the plot and themes, which is intercut with clips from the movie. "Virginia is for Lovers" (1 minute) has Wilson making random statements about the commonwealth of Virginia. The Disc contains three DELETED/ALTERNATE SCENES which run about 6 minutes and offers only one truly new moment. The extras are capped off by a THEATRICAL TRAILER for the film.

Review Copyright 2018 by Mike Long