For those who believe The Mysteries of Pittsburgh announced the arrival of a generation’s J.D. Salinger or F. Scott Fitzgerald, Rawson Marshall Thurber’s misbegotten film adaptation will be seen as an abortion. No scene is as funny, bittersweet, or otherwise vibrantly sketched as Michael Chabon’s prose, but at least it’s not twee. Chabon’s novel revolved largely around the love triangle between Art Bechstein, the son of a money launderer, and two free spirits, Arthur Lecomte and Phlox Lombardi. Though Lecomte has been written out of the story completely and Phlox’s alternately cute and obnoxious eccentricities have been replaced with nothing but a perpetual whine, the navel-gazing Bechstein still gets his bi-freak on, only this time it’s with hot messes Jane Bellwether (Sienna Miller) and Cleveland Arning (Peter Sarsgaard). The decision to eradicate plot points and characters while conflating others is at once welcomed and damning: While there was probably no need to relive Bechstein (Jon Foster) preciously bleeding from the nose after getting it up the ass for the first time, gone is the character’s complex grappling with his genuine lust for both women and men. What we’re left with now is a story that feels as if it has nothing to do with the pressures of class, the nature of sexual desire, or the multifaceted face of a great city, only Bechstein’s blasé relationship with his aloof father (Nick Nolte). Regardless of what you think about the book’s more memorable episodes (the odious dog rape scene, the casual condescension with which Bechstein regards the denizens of Pittsburgh’s underbelly, or Phlox poignantly charming Bechstein Sr. with her love of Portrait of Jennie), they all felt truthful and carefully and uniquely detailed. Though well cast, the film simply lacks for the very mysteries that dignify the novel—at best a sincere show of flattening, at worst a colossal bore of a coming-of-age story.
- Rawson Marshall Thurber
- Rawson Marshall Thurber
- Jon Foster, Peter Sarsgaard, Sienna Miller, Nick Nolte, Mena Suvari, Omid Abtahi
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