Film: The Shipping News

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Film:

The Shipping News

Director: Lasse Hallström
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Distributor: Miramax

Fans of Lasse Hallström’s truffle, Chocolat, may enjoy the director’s subsequent novel adaptation, the emotionally charged Shipping News. The opening sequence introduces us to the bumbling Quoyle (Kevin Spacey), an ink setter at the Poughkeepsie News; his hedonistic wife Petal Bear (Cate Blanchett); and their daughter Bunny. But we hardly get to meet the characters, much less connect with them, in the fewer than eight minutes allotted for the scene. Before you know it, Petal is dead in a car wreck, Quoyle’s parents have committed suicide, and…

Reviews

Amazon.com

Fans of Lasse Hallström’s truffle, Chocolat, may enjoy the director’s subsequent novel adaptation, the emotionally charged Shipping News. The opening sequence introduces us to the bumbling Quoyle (Kevin Spacey), an ink setter at the Poughkeepsie News; his hedonistic wife Petal Bear (Cate Blanchett); and their daughter Bunny. But we hardly get to meet the characters, much less connect with them, in the fewer than eight minutes allotted for the scene. Before you know it, Petal is dead in a car wreck, Quoyle’s parents have committed suicide, and Quoyle and Bunny are headed off with Quoyle’s aunt Agnis (Judi Dench) to start over in a small Newfoundland port town. As the main story ensues—Quoyle’s transformation from passive victim to sensitive lover and eloquent columnist—the subplot of his sordid family history and his aunt’s search for healing seems contrived and lifeless. While Julianne Moore, as the widow Wavey, gives a solid performance as Quoyle’s love interest, Spacey’s performance is uneven, never convincingly at sea enough to reward Quoyle’s ultimate self-discovery. As with so many films adapted from novels, The Shipping News fails to embark confidently enough upon its own course to keep off the rocks. —Fionn Meade

Barnes and Noble

E. Annie Proulx’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel springs to life in this colorful adaptation directed by Lasse Hallström (Chocolat) and enacted by an especially noteworthy ensemble. Kevin Spacey, cast against type, plays a meek printer whose already unsatisfactory life gets worse when his slutty wife (an almost unrecognizable Cate Blanchett) and elderly parents die in short order. Persuaded by his feisty aunt (Judi Dench) to join her in rehabilitating the old family homestead in an oddball community on Newfoundland’s coast, the glum widower and his young daughter move to the isolated village with hopes of a new beginning. Proulx’s baroque novel—thought to be unfilmable by many—is simplified by Hallström and screenwriter Robert Nelson Jacobs, who address themselves to filling the screen with delightfully eccentric characters. Julianne Moore makes a spirited leading lady, while goofy Rhys Ifans, dour Pete Postlethwaite, and laconic Scott Glenn all log notable performances. Apparently determined to keep viewers off balance, Hallström varies the film’s mood from scene to scene; the cute and quirky rub shoulders with the depressing and macabre, and ancient mysteries jostle with humorous revelations. The end result is a movie that’s as unpredictable as it is engrossing. Ed Hulse

Related Works

Album:The Shipping News

The Shipping News

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Book:The Shipping News: A Novel

The Shipping News: A Novel

Annie Proulx

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award, The Shipping News is a celebration of Annie Proulx’s genius for storytelling and her vigorous contribution to the art of the novel.

Quoyle, a third-rate newspaper hack, with a “head shaped like a crenshaw, no neck, reddish hair…features as bunched as kissed fingertips,” is wrenched violently out of his workaday life when his two-timing wife meets her just deserts. An aunt convinces Quoyle and his two emotionally disturbed daughters to return with her to the starkly beautiful coastal landscape of their ancestral home in Newfoundland. Here, on desolate Quoyle’s Point, in a house empty except for a few mementos of the family’s unsavory past, the battered members of three generations try to cobble up new lives.

Newfoundland is a country of coast and cove where the mercury rarely rises above 70 degrees, the local culinary delicacy…[more]

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