The Shipping News (2001)
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Review Date: December 18, 2001
Director: Lasse Hallstrom
Writer: Robert Nelson Jacobs
Producers: Irwin Winkler, L. Goldstein
Kevin Spacey as Quoyle
Julianne Moore as Wavey
Judi Dench as Agnis
One night after sleeping with a sleaze, a pussy-whipped man believes himself to be in love with the woman. Nine months later, they are married, have a kid together and she brings home other men for the purposes of recreational whoring. What does he do in the meantime? Not sure, but cooking dinner and taking care of the kid are at the top of his list. One day, his cheating wife dies and a forgotten relative comes through town and invites the man and his daughter to Newfoundland ("where your family comes from"). Self-discovery ensues...
What do you get when you take Oscar winning actors Kevin Spacey and Judi Dench, Oscar-nominated actors Julianne Moore and Cate Blanchett, Oscar nominated director Lasse Halstrom and slap them all together in a movie based on a Pulitzer prize-winning book? Unfortunately for us...one big bore! This is a movie for which I did not have high expectations, but as low my hopes were...they were still not met. The trailer, the setting in a small fishery community of Newfoundland and the over-emphasis of the "Oscar winning actors..." in the trailer turned me off initially. But I'm always looking for nice surprises, and with the bulk of talent behind this puppy, I was still hoping for some insight into the human condition or at the very least, a great story. Instead, I got a slow moving picture with uninteresting characters, lazy development, obvious symbolism (that water and house thing has been done to death already!) and plenty of obvious catharses. The movie seemed to be checking off all of the elements required of an award-winning film, but forgot to bring the heart or soul. The look of the movie is beautiful, however. The surroundings around the shack were spectacular and the cinematography top-notch, which is probably why I would find myself floating into the film's atmosphere, whenever the film's tepid script began to wander aimlessly. But at some point of the movie, we do actually begin to develop some insight into the characters, but the truth is that a) by then, I honestly didn't care about any of these people because they simply hadn't make me care for them and b) all of the back-stories were so depressing and wrenching, that it just got me even more miserable and made me wonder if it might just have been something in their drinking water.

And if you thought that Arnold Schwarzenegger movies had a lot of deaths in them...check this movie out! I don't think I've seen a film in which so many people relate their death stories to one another in quite some time. Yes folks...it's downright depressing! And the truth of the matter is that if I wanted to be depressed, I'd just look in the mirror and think about my own life (without the haze of alcohol softening the blow like it usually does). But I digress. In the end, the thing that might carry you through a movie as such is the acting. Well, as much as nobody stunk up the joint here, I have to say that I was less than impressed with Spacey's droopy performance. Seriously...if you see this movie, please try and point out one scene in which he has more than one emotion on his face (that being "droopy"). I couldn't get "into" this guy at all, because a) he was a schmuck who let everybody walk all over him and b) he honestly didn't give me much reason to care about him. The rest of the cast was "okay" but for some reason, they all had either British/Scottish/Irish accents. Now I'm not sure how the real accents go in those parts, but I know that no one around my area speaks that way (I'm Canadian, eh). Moore was especially distracting with hers while Scott Glenn was one of the more memorable secondary characters. So does anything really happen in this movie? Well, not really. There are actually two pretty cool scenes, one involving Kevin Spacey in bed with water filling the room around him and the other which takes place during a "wake" (ironically, the only non-depressing part of the movie). But in the end, each of the characters finally comes to grips with their respective pasts and fears, and come to some sort of re-awakening. Yawn. Now being as most of the characters and their stories weren't necessarily interesting, the film itself just didn't do anything for me. I guess I should have known that I was in trouble when the 7-year old girl in this movie put her ear up against her new home and said, "This house is sad". Ugh. Yeah, and so's everyone else in this movie...I'm outta here!!
(c) 2018 Berge Garabedian

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