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Modern Romance

Albert Brooks , Kathryn Harrold , Albert Brooks    DVD

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Amazon.ca

It's just your typical boy-dumps-girl, boy-has-change-of-heart, boy-alienates-girl-anew love story. This romantic comedy, the last word on obsessive, can't-live-with-'em, can't-live-without-'em relationships, holds a special place in the hearts of Albert Brooks fans.

Brooks stars as film editor Robert Cole, who breaks up--again, apparently--with Mary (Kathryn Harrold). They are in a no-win situation, he tells her, like Vietnam. The sequence that follows is an excruciating, intimately observed tour de force: Robert's long night's journey into day. Miserable, spaced out on Quaaludes, he stumbles around his apartment, admiring his record collection ("I love my albums"), rifling through his Rolodex, making a blind date call he will instantly regret.

He becomes determined to win Mary back, but again falls prey to his possessiveness and paranoia, as when he happens to find Mary's phone bill and becomes obsessed over a long-distance number.

Modern Romance is characteristically deadpan in its depiction of one man behaving badly. The dialogue is vintage Brooks, as when he tells a colleague (Bruno Kirby) that he and Mary always enjoyed great sex but could never really talk. "Do you need to talk?" his friend asks, which would be the topper in anyone else's comedy. But Brooks dismisses this cheap joke with, "We're men. Can we have a bond?"

A hilarious subplot concerns Robert's work on a cheesy science fiction film that stars George Kennedy. James L. Brooks (no relation), who would direct Brooks to an Oscar nomination in Broadcast News, is hysterical as the deluded director who resists Robert's best, painstaking efforts to improve the film.

For some, Modern Romance is a comedy, for others, a horror film (Robert is as relentless as Michael Myers and as much a nightmare as Freddy). See it and squirm with someone you love. --Donald Liebenson


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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.6 out of 5 stars  21 reviews
35 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the Finest (and most overlooked) Romantic Comedies... Jan. 31 2001
By Nathan Southern - Published on Amazon.com
Format:VHS Tape
"Modern Romance" is Albert Brooks's masterpiece, and one of the funniest, most engaging romantic comedies ever made.
Brooks's first three films certified his status as a legend in the minds of comedy fans. Often described as a "jockier version of Woody Allen," Albert cultivated his own cinematic shtick during the late seventies and early early eighties -- a technique which capitalizes on a number of elements that quickly became Brooks trademarks, particularly self-parody; Bob Newhart-style telephone conversations (and man-against-the-odds conversations, where Brooks protagonists get in way over their heads, but make laughable, quixotic attempts to fight their way out); and gags built entirely around the use of a specific (often confined) setting. In "Modern Romance," these elements come to full fruition.
As in "Real Life" (1979) and "Lost in America," (1985) Brooks plays an exaggerated version of himself -- a neurotic, compulsive, self-obsessed opportunist. He's Robert Cole, a film editor for American International Pictures, who breaks up with his girlfriend, bank teller Mary Harvard (Kathryn Harrold), because they can't communicate ("You've heard of a no-win situation, right?... No? You've never heard of one? Vietnam...? This...?") but instinctively regrets his decision and spends a miserable night strung out on quaaludes, stumbling around his house, crashing into walls, and calling friends to talk about deep feelings. When Robert finally launches a successful, obsessive attempt to win Mary back with a porch full of stuffed animals, they can't stay together for more than two days, because he's such a paranoid shmuck that he won't give her enough freedom to function.
"Modern Romance" is a classic example of how comic genius (and clever presentation) can lift an ordinary premise to the level of brilliance. The picture brims with hundreds of hilarious one-liners and running gags. The phrase, "I love you" becomes a piece of shtick, in itself, because Cole uses it like a self-explanatory mantra, to account for his obsessive behaviour. ("This is only happening because I love you."; ""The problem is that I'm in *love*...!" "Here we go... I LOVE YA!") The most impressive aspect of the picture is that Brooks carries 80% of the scenes completely alone -- he talks to himself while driving, shaving, checking his vitamin cabinet ("Got any B6? No B6? Outta C? Got E... the old standby!") -- and manages to be consistently hilarious and credible!
Cole is so obnoxious, and yet -- somehow -- so painfully funny and believable (remember Charles Grodin's self-destructive character in "The Heartbreak Kid"?), that while we're aghast that he'd be insensitive enough to tell an old friend, "I'll call you right back" and write the number in the air with his finger, or to interrupt his girlfriend's business dinner with clients in the middle of a crowded restaurant, we're laughing the entire time.
And yet, I think the Cole character is only one of the film's two major strengths. The other: "Modern Romance" seems to challenge (though not defy) the boundaries of cinematic milieux. According to some sources, Stanley Kubrick was fascinated by this film, which fell in-between "The Shining" (1980) and "Full Metal Jacket" (1987) -- in one story, Kubrick called Brooks after he attended a theatrical screening of "Modern Romance," and the two tried to strike up a friendship. That story may be apocryphal, but if not, I wouldn't be surprised. Here's why: in "Modern Romance," screenwriter/director Brooks manages to give an illusion of greater depth to the cinematic world than what we normally sense in movies -- the structure of the film, in a way, seems driven by the central character. It feels as if Cole has freedom beyond the confines of the screen -- the ability to move into other *environments* -- eg. the film editing booth, Santa Monica-area stores, the Santa Monica freeway, Idlewhile. (He spends half of the film simply driving from location to location, and making each decision on the gut level, led by whims). The hilarious scenes where Brooks edits a B budget Sci-fi picture, in fact, have *nothing* to do with the film's central premise of Robert-winning-Mary-back. So, why include them? Perhaps because it gives the characters, in a way, more mobility -- and creates the anti-Brechtian illusion of a vast world beyond the confines of the movie set.
Now: if we think about the structure of "Full Metal Jacket," where Kubrick cemented the audience in one world (the military base) and restarted halfway through with another (the war), or -- even earlier -- "2001: A Space Odyssey," where the structure resembles three loosely-linked films, each with separate environments (The Dawn of Man/The Voyage to Jupiter/ Jupiter), we'll notice that Kubrick, in an overt, explicit way, pushed cinematic boundaries.
Brooks, on the other hand, merely nudges the boundaries out a little bit -- and because of that, the film feels more free and less restrictive than the reality of standard narrative cinema.
On a final note: though it wasn't intended as a period piece when shot in late 1980 and released in March of '81, twenty years since Modern Romance's general release have given it a distinctly un-modern, period feel. The music ("Another One Bites the Dust," "She's Out of My Life," "A Fifth of Beethoven," etc.) the references to films from the late seventies and early eighties (Bogdanovich's "Nickelodeon," Cimino's "Heaven's Gate,") the early-80s attire (like the brown jumpsuit Cole wears), and Cole's analog answering machine all evoke feelings of nostalgia for that brief, post-disco, pre-Reagan span of time that appeared and disappeared all too quickly.
A quick piece of trivia about "Modern Romance": according to Albert Brooks fan sites, Brooks and Harrold dated briefly in real life, following this picture. Harrold can be seen in Jaglom's "Someone to Love" (1985), playing herself at a party for singles.
Other, similar films you should check out if you enjoy this picture: "The Heartbreak Kid" (1971), "Cross My Heart" (1987), Bobby Roth's "Heartbreakers" (1984) with Harrold, Brooks's "Lost in America" (1985).
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Every line, every scene, BRILLIANT! May 28 2006
By cannotlogon - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
Albert Brooks is, for some, an acquired taste. His diehard fans love virtually everything he has done, and then there are those who simply don't "get" him. Whichever camp you fall into, this film appeals to everyone. Brooks embodies the typical guy caught in one of those relationships that simply doesn't work but cannot be walked away from. This movie is an insightful comedic tribute to the fact that being obsessed with someone is NOT a healthy basis for a loving relationship.

Spectacular performaces from Mr. Brooks, Kathryn Harold, Bruno Kirby, and terrific cameos from James L. Brooks (no relation), Bob "Super Dave Osborne" Einstein (who IS Brooks' brother....Yes, Albert Brooks real name is....Albert Einstein!), George Kennedy and, believe it or not, Harlem Globetrotter Meadowlark Lemon. If for no other reason, see this movie for "the movie within the movie" that Brooks' and Kirby's characters are editing. "You're acting like little WEASELS!"

Enjoy...very highly recommended!
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars ALBERT BROOKS AT HIS BEST May 6 2006
By Mitchell Cassman - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
If you're at all familiar with Albert Brooks's work, you know exactly what you're getting into here. Another study of neuroses and how they impact (negatively) on relationships between the sexes.

Brooks, as usual, plays the usual and same character, himself. with Kathryn Harrold as the love of his life. Brooks is up to his usual insecurities here wondering whether Harrold is cheating on him, obsessing over every little detail. One of the best scenes in the film is when he's depressed over one of the many breakups and is given Quaaludes to relax him. When they start to kick in he starts a rant on how great his belongings are. Loving everything he owns including his record collection, his bird "Petey", and deciding to go through his rolodex and calling old girlfriends.* (*When doing Quaaludes stay away from the phone.)

Modern Romance has its best moments when it has nothing to do with the Brooks-Harrold story, but rather when Bruno Kirby as Brooks's best friend is on screen. Another highlight is the film that Brooks and Kirby are editing, an absurd, cheesy sci-fi romp starring George Kennedy. It's got nothing whatsoever to do with the main storyline, but is the most memorable part of the movie which makes the repetition and relative tameness of the primary plot seem all the more obvious. If you like Albert Brooks you'll like this movie. If you don't know his work, picture George Costanza in his own show.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A comic Masterpiece---if you don't get Albert Brooks then I misjudged you. I'm not perfect. Go watch a Harold and Kumar movie. Nov. 13 2012
By Bill Smith - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
I feel sorry for people out there that apparently don't get or understand or appreciate Albert Brooks' humor. Quite frankly, it boggles the mind that there are actually people who go through their entire life either not even knowing about gems like this film, or see it and don't "get it" or don't think its funny. To be honest, those people should just pack it in because surely going through life that clueless would have to be an empty, worthless, vacuous existence. His run of films from his first film Real Life through Defending Your Life are some of the most hilarious movies ever made.

This film is funny on so many levels that they are almost impossible to completely catalog. As in any Brooks film, the delight and payback is in the details, the nuances, the subtleties. Stanley Kubrick allegedly called Brooks after seeing the movie and thought it was a perfect movie. His Quaalude scene of just solo Brooks doing a lovelorn soliloquy is classic. Talking to his bird Petey ("Petey.... Ellen"), convincing himself that his record collection is great ("I love my albums"), looking at "all his friends" in his rolodex ("Mr Popularity"), calling a woman he barely knows out of the blue for a date but not remembering her name or where she lives, telling some guy who calls wanting his ex girlfriend's phone number that he should live in an "ash can" and him asking for her number is 'incestuous'; telling his film editing assistant Bruno Kirby "he loves him" in the right way (and Kirby says in response "the ludes kicked in").

The "I just broke up with my girlfriend so I am going to start a new life" scene in the sporting goods store with his real life brother Super Dave Osborne is another classic. He wants to be "serious" so Osborne tells him "You want happiness?----get away from the [cheap] box. Those shoes are made of old tires. Is that the way you want to start your new life?" When Brooks balks at buying a second sweatsuit so he can run when one is in the wash, Osborne deadpans "I misjudged you. I'm not perfect. Buy the box." Brooks then capitulates to the sales pressure and goes out to the track and runs about 20 yards before giving in and calling Mary.

Then there are the inside film industry jokes that poke fun at the whole film making business with Brooks' typical wry sarcastic humor. The constant back and forth about how to best edit a scene with George Kennedy running in a spaceship in a cheap sci fi film, topped off by a cameo by Kennedy himself telling Brooks a "Carson" story at a party hosted by Brooks' film director boss (James L Brooks) is vintage Albert. The special effects guys working in the sound studio are so jaded and sarcastic that you can easily picture that is probably exactly what the mundane tasks of filmmaking are like. Q--"What kind of floor do you think that is? A--I dunno, Space floor?"; "Hulk running? That effect should be called Hulk screaming!";Q--What do you think that floor on the spaceship is made of?" A-- "maybe it doesn't weigh anything, ever think of that? What if its up on one of those planets with no gravity?"; Q--"What do you think? A--I think you saved the picture."

That doesn't even cover the scenes with Kathryn Harrold, where Brooks does his obsessive-compulsive neurotic Woody Allen thing. After seeing this, you are going to wish Kathryn took her clothes off in more movies. Nice. A very realistic look at modern relationships. But its the little things that keep bringing you back to watch this thing---like Brooks 'air writing' a phone number when a friend calls to get him off the phone quickly, his insertion of himself shaving if nothing more to show everyone just how hairy his back is, and the non stop precious one liners "you've heard of a no win situation haven't you? Vietnam? this?"; "stronger, faster, better" etc

The impact of Brooks from his earliest appearances on the Tonight Show to his SNL films in the mid 70s to these films on people like Seinfeld and Larry David etc is immeasurable. Its the subtle nuances, the dialog of every day events that is funny, and few people capture that as well as Albert Brooks. The difference between Albert Brooks' and Woody Allen's relationship movies is that, believe it or not, Brooks is far more jaded, sarcastic and cynical, which to me makes them ultimately more funny.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Modern Romance still a Modern Comedy Nov. 22 2005
By Buffy The Movie Slayer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
As a big fan of Albert Brooks films, Modern Romance is by far I think one of Albert Brooks funniest movies. I have already seen it several times and each time I laugh equally at the great lines I already know are coming. A classic story of how a couple keeps breaking up and getting back together again and a man Albert Brooks, a Hollywood film editor, who tries to overcome his heartbreak and then tries to win his love's heart back. It is a must for anyone going through a break up, anyone that is a part of a couple or even singles. Modern Romance takes place in the early 80's, so the time travel back as you watch this movie makes it even funnier as you watch the outdated clothes, hair styles, music and way of living. The dialog of this film is brilliantly funny. Albert Brooks is a riot and adorable. I have been waiting years for this film to come out on DVD as my homemade from tv video copy is getting worn. Don't hesitate to buy Modern Romance. It is a purchase you will enjoy over and over. Save the elemet of suprise for yourself and avoid reading any long detailed reviews or dialog quotes on this film. Everyone I have turned onto this film has never been disappointed. Trust this one is a 2 thumbs upper.

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