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Shipping News

Starring Kevin Spacey; Julianne Moore, Judi Dench and Cate Blanchett
Screenplay by Robert Nelson Jacobs
Based on the the novel by E. Annie Proulx
Directed by Lasse Hallström
no website

IN SHORT: Read the book instead. [Rated R for some language, sexuality and disturbing images. ]

As always, we don't compare to Source Material though, if ever there was an adaptation that screamed "oh you should only know what we had to leave out," it is this one. Too many subplots run in this film that never come together to clearly make their point. There's enough here to figure out what that point is supposed to be but we didn't walk out of our screening with the kind of satisfaction we expected from a movie with the quality cast, as listed above.

We take that back. The Press Notes, which we just looked at, tell us that this story is a "journey to self-discovery" on the part of the man called Qoyle (Kevin Spacey). If so, the adaptation fails, at least on our part. So does the first ten minutes of the story, which throws so much sorrowful stuff at you, it all being necessary background material, that it almost becomes ridiculous. First, a young Qoyle is almost drowned during his first swimming "lesson". He grows into a man seen at a number of jobs; gets picked up by a hottie named "Petal Bear" (Cate Blanchett); gets dumped after the baby comes; the wife comes and goes, sometimes with boyfriends she keeps in a second bedroom; he gets a very shocking call about the final fate of his parents; he finds his wife and daughter have left for good; he gets a very shocking call from the police re: the final fate of his wife (and her boyfriend) and daughter; gets a visit from an aunt he never knew about and ups and moves from Poughkeepsie, NY to Newfoundland. (We've left out some details about those various "final" fates as not all of 'em mean death).

OK, now we're getting to the story . . . in which Qoyle, daughter Bunny (Alyssa, Kaitlyn and Lauren Gainer) and Aunt Agnis (Judi Dench) reclaim the family homestead on Newfoundland. There, Qoyle learns he is the latest in a long line of murderers and rapists and pirates. He also finds an attractive single mom, Wavey Prowse (Julianne Moore), and makes friends with Jack Buggit (Scott Glenn), self-proclaimed last in the line of cursed fishermen. Jack is the last because he's forbidden his son, Dennis (Jason Behr) from taking to the sea. Just as the Buggit's have their "curse," both Aunt Agnis and Wavey has their secrets. Qoyle has to contend with the stares of the natives, all of whom know his family history, as well as a continuing obsession with his ex-wife.

You could guess that the story is about family curses and the breaking of such. We did. As for the aforementioned "self-discovery," Spacey's Qoyle is so bland that we wonder exactly what it is that he's discovered. We could hazard a guess, but we'd probably be wrong about that, too.

All the "color" in this flick comes from supporting characters Rhys Ifans and Pete Postlethwaite -- faces that frequent moviegoers should recognize -- who are reporters at the newspaper where Qoyle is hired to write about ships coming in and departing from the harbor. One's a friend. One's a potential back-biting enemy and neither, thankfully, have any secrets to reveal. There's enough detail here that we got a feel for the residents, though we don't think that "bland" is exactly what director Lasse Hallström wanted us to get. While each character has his or her own history, none of that struck us as very deep. That's a failure in the adaptation since Hallström demonstrated his ability to handle extravagant layers of story and character in his last film, The Cider House Rules. He's also shown the opposite, in the filled with symbolism Chocolat.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Nine Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Shipping News, he would have paid . . .


Rent it.

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