Blu-ray: Between the Lines

STUDIO: Cohen Media | DIRECTOR: Joan Micklin Silver | CAST: John Heard, Lindsay Crouse, Stephen Collins, Gwen Welles, Bruno Kirby, Jill Eikenberry, Jeff Goldblum, Joe Morton, Lewis J. Stadlen, Michael J. Pollard
RELEASE DATE: June 18, 2019 | PRICE: DVD $16.56, Blu-ray $24.29
BONUSES: new director’s interview, trailers
SPECS: R | 101 min. | Comedy drama | 1.85:1 widescreen | LPCM 2.0 | English subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall

Although it is 42 years old, co-writer/director Joan Micklin Silver’s Between the Lines is good nostalgia, looking like a time capsule of its era and feeling somewhat contemporary at the same time. The environs are strictly late 1970s, but the subject—corporate takeover of the media—is something discussed on a regular basis today.

The setting is Boston where the alternative weekly, The Back Bay Mainline, is in danger of being sold to a larger media company in a move that will endanger its independence and, perhaps, its very existence. The staff of the fading paper, which made its name during the 1960s in the midst of Vietnam War protests, womens rights marches and civil rights struggles, is an eclectic crew that includes moody firebrand Harry (the late John Heard, Runner Runner) and on-again-off-again photographer girlfriend Abbie (Lindsay Crouse, Places in the Heart); reporter-turning novelist Michael (Stephen Collins, The Three Stooges) and his long-suffering better half Laura (Gwen Welles, Nashville); ambitious cub reporter David (the late Bruno Kirby, City Slickers); reliable receptionist Lynn (Jill Eikenberry, Young Adult); and hustling rock critic Max (Jeff Goldblum, Hotel Artemis). Add classified ad manager Ahmed (Joe Morton, TV’s Warehouse 13), nebbish business manager Stanley (Lewis J. Stadlen, The Imposters), a zonked-out newspaper hawker (Michael J. Pollard, Bonnie and Clyde), and a musical appearance by Southside Johnny and the Asbury Dukes, and you have quite diverse group of characters—and many young talents making impressive early appearances.

Free-wheeling and anecdotal, Between the Lines plays like Robert Altman-lite—and that’s a compliment. Silver and co-writer Fred Barron—both veterans of the alternative press world—put the characters in personality-revealing circumstances that can be both funny and poignant, whether it be Harry and Abbie covering a lifestyle piece on a stripper (Marilu Henner, Vamps), David trying to investigate a record bootlegger, or Max finding new ways to earn extra cash to score some pot. In the background, meanwhile, are the friendships between the Main Liners, threatened by the possible corporate coup. And as far as the relationships between men and women are concerned, Micklin puts a feminist spin on the proceedings, calling the male characters out for their egocentricity, insensitivity and occasional creepiness.

Between the Lines is being presented with a handsome new 2K upgrade after a limited theatrical release from the Cohen Film Collection. The extras include a new trailer, the original 1977 trailer (which represents the film as type-of teen comedy) and an interview with the 83-year-old Silver (Crossing Delancey), in which she warmly recounts the experiences making the film following her successful feature debut with Hester Street. She also tells some funny stories, especially about the ever-enthusiastic Goldblum’s involvement in the production.

Buy or Rent Between the Lines

About Irv

Irv Slifkin has been reviewing movies since before he got kicked off of his high school radio station for panning The Towering Inferno in 1974. He has written the books VideoHound’s Groovy Movies: Far-Out Films of the Psychedelic Era and Filmadelphia: A Celebration of a City’s Movies, and has contributed film reportage and reviews to such outlets as Entertainment Weekly, The Hollywood Reporter, Video Business magazine and National Public Radio.