Based on Michael Chabon's novel, the film chronicles the defining summer of a recent college graduate who crosses his gangster father and explores love, sexuality, and the enigmas surrounding his life and his city.
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Pittsburgh, coming of age in the 1980s. At the beginning of June, Art Beckstein calls this the last summer of his life - after which he'll work as a stock broker. Art's father is the city's mob boss, steering Art's life, judging his choices. At a party, Art sees Jane, smart, blond, lovely. They meet; she has a boyfriend. The next day, Cleveland, the boyfriend, pulls Art from work and the summer of adventures begins. Cleveland lives close to the edge; he's explosive, with hints of problems with local thugs. The triangle of friendship gets complicated when Cleveland disappears for a couple weeks. Can Art sort out his feelings as well as help Cleveland? Where does his father fit in this? Written by
Watch the Commentary Between Chabon and Thurber FIRST!
For those who find it difficult to appreciate the adaptation format of film making from a famous novel, THE MYSTERIES OF PITTSBURGH as now released on DVD should help explain the naysayers' opinions. In a very valuable session of conversations among Michael Chabon and Rawson Marshall Thurber (screenwriter and director) and the producer and cast, the transition of this complex novel into a very altered story is comfortably explained and the person most happy with the result seems to be the originator - Michael Chabon!
That being said this film stands well on its own terms. June and July in hot Pittsburgh generate mysteries among a variety of people, especially the young college graduate Art Bechstein (Jon Foster) who while working in a bookstore wastes time with a fling with the supervisor Phlox (Mena Suvari) with disinterested post grad classes dealing with becoming a broker and having monthly dinners with his mobster father Joe Bechstein (Nick Nolte), until he encounters an odd couple: bisexual biker and thief Cleveland (Peter Sarsgaard) and his female consort, the violinist Jane Bellwether (Sienna Miller). The bizarre interactions among these characters drive Art to make many decisions and discoveries - including his falling in love with both Cleveland and Jane. The summer winds down with Art finally discovering his own identity despite the clouds of mystery that have surrounded his life. It is a piece of life as lived by disparate characters whose direction in life seems at odds with the natural flow of finding happiness and success. But then the question is asked - what is happiness and what is success if not survival?
For this viewer the explanation by the makers of this film was interesting enough to encourage a repeat watching of the movie. A good movie not a great movie, but it still tastes strongly of Michael Chabon's genius. It deserves more attention than the critics have given it.....Grady Harp
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