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May 10 2018

Review: "The Seagull"

byJason Adams

Nina (Saoirse Ronan) is sweetly exasperated by Konstantin (Billy Howle),whose avant-garde play she has just acted (and flopped) in for a small crowd of friends and relations."Nothing happens in your play,"she says."It's all people talking.You ought to add a love story."

Anton Chekov,who wrote the maybe-you've-heard-of-it 1895 playThe Seagullupon whichthis movieis based,was of course making a joke at his own expense --The Seagullis really nothing but talk and love stories.Half a dozen love stories are all twisted up,a gordian knot of romantic entanglements...

Masha loves Konstantin loves Nina loves Boris and on,looping back and in between again.The trick is that none of them connect into anything approaching a satisfactory conclusion.There's nothing but compromise,abandonment,and pain.Chekov is a magician endlessly pulling his scarves from the hat,until the last one slips looped around the throat of innocence itself.A mislaid bird dead on a dock.

Dark stuff but also very very funny,in that mordant vodka-soaked Russian way.Director Michael Mayer really nails the humor in this version,aided by witty performances from his ace cast who all came to play.Elizabeth Moss offers up a sloshed little master-class of frayed nerves as Masha.The dramatic turns of the last act are well-handled too - when you've got Saoirse and Annette Bening digging into this stuff you know you're in more than capable hands;there's a late-stage close-up of Annette that'll restart any actress-loving heart all the way from the dead.

But does the movie work?Not entirely.

The Seagullis such a product of the stage I don't know that it can work as a film.IfThe Seagullis about anything it's about The Theater.It is about the very act of sitting in a physical space with these actors as these characters,splitting an axe down the center of person to person story-telling and cracking open its wooden heart,the floor-boards themselves shattering into little splinters,sending them off shooting down everybody's veins,one after another.You should feel the heat of Chekov's Gun on your face when it goes off.The smoke should physically clog your nostrils.Mayer's camera roves and spins around,looking and straining for the cinematic equivalent of that sensation,but never finds it.StillThe Seagull's heart does beat hard.

The Seagull opens Friday May 11th in limited release

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Reader Comments (12)

A wonderful cast in a wonderful play.
Oh yes,I want to see this film,maybe two or three times,just to enjoy every detail.

May 11,2018 | Unregistered Commenteradri

I loved the review,Jason,but what are the film's and cast's Oscar chances?Can you comment?Thanks!

May 11,2018 | Unregistered CommenterMarcos

I'm in.Even if it's not great,I definitely want to see this.

May 11,2018 | Unregistered CommenterDJDeeJay

João amava Teresa que amava Raimundo
que amava Maria que amava Joaquim que amava Lili
que não amava ninguém.
João foi para os Estados Unidos,Teresa para o convento,
Raimundo morreu de desastre,Maria ficou para tia,
Joaquim suicidou-se e Lili casou com J.Pinto Fernandes
que não tinha entrado na história

May 11,2018 | Unregistered CommenterTheBoyFromBrazil

Marcos - I'm really bad at Oscar prognostication but I don't think the movie's substantial enough to stay in the conversation until Awards Season.Bening's great,Saoirse's really good in her final scene,and Elisabeth Moss is gold every second she's on-screen,but it all feels kind of slight in the end.My guess is the movie's forgotten by the end of the year.

May 11,2018 | Unregistered CommenterJason

Great review,Jason.That pic of Annette is the living end.

May 11,2018 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

Mad Men - the show that 15 years from now will be remembered as "that random advertising show that brought us Elisabeth Moss"

May 11,2018 | Unregistered CommenterHuh

It looks like a Kenneth Branagh movie

May 11,2018 | Unregistered CommenterJaragon

the bylinereadsjason but the review doesn't even mention corey stoll so i have my doubts...

wasn't this shot ages ago?it seems like i've been waiting on it for years [which is suitably chekovian,i guess]

May 12,2018 | Unregistered Commenterpar

Chekhov is the essence of theatre so it's hard to make it work in a movie.The cast is phenomenal.

May 12,2018 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

Definitely want to see it.

May 12,2018 | Unregistered CommenterJames T

I really loved it!It felt very cinematic to me - gorgeous cinematography,beautiful score,and fantastic performances.

May 17,2018 | Unregistered CommenterTyler

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