The Whole Wide World
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Driven by the electrifying performances of Vincent D'Onofrio (TV's "Law & Order: Criminal Intent") and Renée Zellweger (Chicago, Bridget Jones's Diary), THE WHOLE WIDE WORLD is the touching true story of the star-crossed love between writer Robert Howard and schoolteacher Novalyne Price. The creator of Conan the Barbarian and Red Sonja, Howard was a small-town writer with an insatiable appetite for larger-than-life heroism and fantasy. Shunned by the prudish locals, he was befriended by a feisty young teacher who offered him an unforgettable chance at love.
- Conversation with Renee Zellweger and director Dan Ireland
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To add to the confusion, the (Canadian) Amazon.ca site now lists three versions of this DVD, an "import" version that appears to be the U.S. version, the original Canadian version (February 25, 2003 release date), and a new DVD (Canadian only?) with a release date of October 19, 2004. However, there is no further information on the website as to what the technical differences are between these DVDs, and the folks at Amazon.ca had no further information to give out when I contacted them by e-mail. Hey guys, you really need to sort this out!
Even more confusing, the British Amazon.co.uk site lists only an import version of this DVD, which has the same release date and ASIN number as the U.S. DVD, but is listed as 106 min long, not 93 min. Somebody has made a mistake here.
My copy of this Canadian DVD (Feb. 25, 2003 version) is not a great transfer (contrary to an earlier post by the director himself, Dan Ireland on January 11, 2003 posted on the VHS version of this movie) - the opening and ending credits and much of the movie appear to be either slightly out of focus or heavily compressed, or both; and the edges of the screen can be seen creeping into the corners on a number of occasions. There are also occasional strange, chopping artifacts - e.g., at the 1 hour 15 min. mark, the top edge of the picture suddenly separates and duplicates - this is noticeable because it chops the character Truett Vinson's head into two parts. This Canadian version also does not have the added bonus commentary track by the director and actors.
Having never seen the original theatrical release or the other DVD versions, I have no clue what has been left in and what has been cut out from this version. An earlier post (Sept. 29, 2003) about a laserdisk version of this movie mentioned a couple of scenes - the lightning strike, a discussion of ancestral memories, which I did not see in this DVD. The scene where Howard's mother tells him that HP Lovecraft wanted his address to write to him is in this version. The latter parts of the movie seem a bit choppy and disjointed, as if some interconnecting scenes were cut out.
So it is likely that my Canadian version, although longer than the U.S. version, is still not the full version.
Whatever, this is still a GREAT movie with outstanding performances by a number of people. A lot has been said already about the tragic and yet wonderful story line and the terrific acting, so I won't repeat all of that. A few additional comments that haven't been made:
1. Robert E. Howard would definitely fit into the category of Asperger's Syndrome (utterly inept at social conventions, but often brilliant in a very focused area, thought to be a form of autism). Read up about Asperger's - you will find it hard to disagree. So, it wasn't just having to live in Cross Plains, Texas back in the early 1900's that did him in.
2. The movie made it seem that it was a combination of the rejection by Novalyne Price and the impending death of his mother that drove Robert Howard to suicide. One will never know of course, just how much Robert Howard loved Novalyne Price. What is clear is that Novalyne Price was attracted both physically by this large, powerfully built man, as well as by his brilliant mind and poetic sensibilities. But in the end, she wanted, like so many conventional girls do want, a stable husband, a social life, somebody who would not be so blunt, direct, and completely lacking in social graces.
3. The attachment between Robert Howard and his mother is more understandable if one realizes that people with Asperger's often have a terrible time growing up as children and young adults. No doubt she had to bail him out of many social jams and comfort him frequently. No doubt she was the only person in the world who understood him and accepted him as he was (since his own father did not understand him). It's possible that his mother may have also had a degree of Asperger's, given the socially withdrawn way that she is portrayed in the film. The tragedy of this story is that it appeared that Robert E. Howard was looking to transfer some of that love and affection to another woman, but was unable to find that love. The tragedy of Novalyne Price is undoubtedly the regrets that she must have had about her brief love for this troubled, brilliant young man.
Other reviews have covered the basic story: based on the memoirs of Novalyne Price, The Whole Wide World is her recollection of the relationship she had with Conan creator and pulp fiction writer, Robert E. Howard, before his tragic suicide.
The performances in this film are outstanding. Vincent D'Onofrio practically leaps off of the screen. His character is infuriating, heartbreaking, yet so fragile. Renee Zellweger filmed this movie just before she got the call to appear in Jerry Macguire, and she shines as Novalyne Price. Price was a smart, witty, and stubborn lady - in a time when such things were not considered very ladylike. Novalyne and Robert were introduced by a mutual acquaintance, and thus began their disjointed and devoted friendship.
There was obviously so much love between them, but circumstances, Howard's mental illness, and his unreasonable devotion to his mother prevented their relationship from ever reaching it's potential. It's a tragic, very real human story and more than worth two hours of your time. Just make sure you have a tissue ready because it is a tear jerker. It never lowers itself to petty sentimentality though. The Whole Wide World will touch you via pure emotional storytelling - kudos to the writer who adapted Price's novel.
It's criminal that the DVD and video are not available in the United States! Various cable channels are playing it regularly, yet I can't come to the American amazon.com to purchase it?? Please follow the director, Dan Ireland, and his advice - go to amazon.ca.com and treat yourself to this wonderful love story!
Brilliantly written, acted with gusto and very well made. Highly worth the time even if you have no previous interest in Conan the Barbarian and his creator.