Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Mysteries of Pittsburgh

The Mysteries of Pittsburgh (Rawson Marshall Thurber, 2008) [5]

I don't feel this is nearly as bad as some of the reviews out there but I may be a bit biased because I am such a fan of Chabon's writing. The main problem here is that the film has sucked almost all the lyrical flow of the novel out and what's left is a fairly standard coming of age film. It's a testament to Chabon that he took such a hackneyed story and made something truly interesting out of it. Thurber is handcuffed by his medium and his own over-earnest portrayal of the material. Art, played blandly by Jon Forster, is a character that instead of seeing the film through his experiences, mostly is acted upon by everyone around him. It ends up creating a character that practically sucks everything interesting and enjoyable out of the film. Peter Sarsgaard's performance helps keeps much of it afloat as much as a supporting character can. It's only at the end, with some scenes between Art and Jane (Sienna Miller doing nothing much up to this point) that finally get some of Chabon's themes effectively done.

I admittedly had dreadful expectations for this seeing that The Mysteries of Pittsburgh is one of my favorite novels and Thurber's only previous film was Dodgeball. He came into the film knowing the material and really tried to make a great film from a great book. That the film is so wrapped up in its a sense of overwrought obedience to the novel, it takes away much of the power of the written word. It creates a feeling that this film was the best anyone could have done with the material.

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