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I don't think I've ever seen a film quite like this. It was definitely
one of the most faithful adaptations I've ever seen, not only in the
story but the way in which it was done. The novel (written by William
Faulkner) features 15 different narrators recounting the events, the
film (implementing split screen) was able to show different
perspectives of the same events simultaneously.
Cinematically, most (if not all) of the camera work was hand-held, and much of the lighting seemed natural. I thought the acting was great overall, and I thought it was well directed. The music was intense, almost too much at times. The novel has never been adapted to the screen previously, (I'm sure partly) due to the fact that the narrative structure is so complex. Overall, I thought it was interesting, and like I said I've never seen a more true adaptation, as Franco employs all aspects of filmmaking to sync to the novel.
I was almost shocked when i heard that they would be making a movie out
of my favorite book, and the fact that James Franco and Danny McBride
would be in it did not leave me with a good feeling. I was blown away,
however, at what a great adaptation it is.
In fact, i'm not sure i'd even call it an adaptation. It IS the book. I cant think of any other movie that was truer to the source material. Obviously the book is much more long winded, and is filled with long, and often puzzling monologues from all the main characters. It's more dream like, and ponderous. But i cant think of anything that the movie left out, or missed, or put it's particular "spin" on, it was all dead on.
That said, the book is a difficult read. The movie is equally difficult. You could read the entire book, and have little idea what it's about. Similarly, you could easily watch this entire movie and be completely puzzled by it. There's a lot of important plot points that gets covered, and you barely even have time to realize exactly what it is the characters are saying. Once again though, the book is the same. Questions like: why is Varadamin's mom a fish? Why is Jewel's mom a horse? Why doesn't Darl have a mom? These are sort of answered, just like in the book, but they also seem completely absurd to even ask. It's a story more about the people involved in it, and not so much about the events that take place, or even the truthfulness of anything or anyone.
I would imagine most viewers will struggle to even understand what it is that the characters are saying, as they all have thick southern accents, Anse being almost unintelligible. Adding to the confusing is the fact that most everything they say is highly complex, poetry like prose that doesn't particularly care if you're following closely or not, they're still going to say it. Once again, pretty much how the book is.
So it's a difficult to understand book, and it's a difficult to understand movie. I certainly loved it, but i suspect most viewers will hate it.
"As I Lay Dying" is not an easy sell as a commercial film. The title
already intimates that it will be a depressing story about Death. It is
based on the novel of an author, who, while being a Nobel Laureate, is
not really known for being very easy to read -- William Faulkner.
Hence, we can expect a film that is similarly hard to watch. Upon
giving it a go, I am not wrong on both counts.
This film is about the Bundrens, a poor but proud rural family from the boondocks of Mississippi. The mother Addie (Beth Grant) dies at the beginning of the film. Her husband Anse and their five children bring her coffin a long distance to Addie's hometown to be buried, in order to fulfill a dying wish. Along their long trip, we will get to know each character better as each one has his own little story to tell.
This is one very slow film which will strain the patience of the most moviegoers. The contemplative script is full of deep monologues as each character tells his version of life. It certainly reflects the style that Faulkner is famous for -- his stream of consciousness writing style as well as the multiple narrators.
This is the directorial debut of hard-working star James Franco, who has certainly gone a long way from when we first knew him as Harry Osborne in "Spider Man." He bravely tackles a difficult novel and he actually succeeds to visually interpret it very well. Once you get the drift of this languid storytelling style, and his attention-grabbing split screen technique, you will be mesmerized and drawn in. The imagery used is compelling as the grand country vistas contrast with intimate personal moments.
Easily the best performer in the cast is Tim Blake Nelson as the stubborn and irascible patriarch of the brood, Anse. He has most realistic portrayal with that hot-potato drawl of his, uttering the most maddening of pronouncements. There is actually humor in his unpleasantness.
The five Bundren children and the actors who play them, namely Cash (Jim Parrack), Darl (James Franco), Jewel (Logan Marshall-Green), Dewey Dell (Ahna O'Reilly) and little Vardaman (Brady Permenter), all have their moments. While Darl seemed to be the most centered of all the characters, ironically, it was James Franco who seemed to lack something in his portrayal. Maybe it is because we expect the most from him.
This film is not for everyone because of its glacial pace and dark brooding subject matter. But with the proper attitude and frame of mind, you may actually find this a fascinating rumination about life and mortality, as you immerse yourself in this grim slice of rural American life in the 1920s. 7/10.
As I Lay Dying is as challenging to watch as it is to read. But that's what's so good about it! James Franco's choice to adapt Faulkner was very ambitious, but it definitely paid off. The use of split screen was very effective at times and many of the full screen shots were beautifully done. The acting was all top notch, Tim Blake Nelson as Anse was my particular favourite, being exactly as he was in my imagination after reading the book. Franco has successfully pulled off many stylistic techniques to create a movie as un- conventional as the book is. Although I believe it works really well as a movie, I would not recommend it to someone who has not read the novel. Being a big fan of Cormac McCarthy, I look forward to seeing how Franco has adapted 'Child of God' in hope that it is as good as this. Overall, this is a very good movie that stays true to the novel.
I always wondered why James Franco was never vastly recognised as a
film director than an actor. If you ask me, I say he was always at his
best who mostly pick biographies and dramas. This movie is one of the
year's widely undernoticed and under-appreciated. As always, that leads
me to hate critics who divert the movie fans from this movie a watch.
This was one of the best dramas I had seen that set in the rural of the early 1900s. About the family of brothers and sister who lost their mother. As being in a remote village they struggle to travel nearby burial ground that is days away to reach. So theirs quest starts to take twists and turns among siblings and the mother nature. Each of them has individual hidden secrets that not related to their mother's death, but as a character. One after another letting us know theirs another face till the adventures ends in peace.
I really liked this movie. The tone of the setting of that era was so perfect. Feels like they all went for a century back to the original time to make the movie so accurately. It was based on the novel by the same name. Might be a fictional work, though, depicts the true lifestyle and transporting system of those times. No fights, no guns, a purely family based drama which might be a little brutal in parts, but kind of realistic according to that era. Don't miss this movie, a movie based on the old era is not frequent nowadays. Movies like this now and then really give a good opportunity to the modern people to know the forgotten culture. Hope you all realise what I am saying about the movie and its material.
'AS I LAY DYING': Four Stars (Out of Five)
James Franco undertook the ambitious creative effort of trying to adapt author William Faulkner's classic 1930 book (of the same name) and partially succeeded. Franco directed the film and wrote it's screenplay. He also co-stars in the movie with a bunch of his friends; like Danny McBride, Tim Blake Nelson and Jim Parrack (he co-stars with Nelson and Parrack in another film he co-wrote and directed this year, based on a book by Cormac McCarthy, called 'CHILD OF GOD'). The film, if nothing else, is very interesting and it's great to see Franco continuously trying new and different things.
The story begins with the death of Addie Bundren (Beth Grant). She left behind her husband Anse (Nelson), daughter Dewey Dell (Ahna O'Reilly) and four sons (Franco, Parrack, Logan Marshall-Green and Brady Permenter). It then focuses on the family's efforts to transport Addie's body to the town of Jefferson, to be buried (as she wished). Each family member has their own troubles and drama. It's set in the fictional Yoknapatawpha County, Mississippi (based on Faulkner's home Lafayette County).
I never read the book so I didn't know the story at all prior to seeing the movie. So for me it was really bizarre and interesting. I know a lot of fans of the book are unhappy with Franco's adaptation but there are some that think it's a good enough summary of a near impossible novel to adapt (into a movie). I liked all of the performances (I especially was fascinated by Nelson and Marshall-Green) and found all the characters to be really interesting. I really liked Franco's directing as well and think he shows a lot of promise with this film. Maybe he shouldn't try to adapt such popular and classic works of modern literature but he definitely has talent as a filmmaker. There's a lot to marvel at in the movie, for sure. It probably doesn't do the source material justice but it's still an extremely interesting film going experience.
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James Franco has seemingly set out to be the busiest man in Hollywood.
Franco unfulfilled by just acting in recent times has taken on art,
writing and adapting so called un-filmable novels with the forthcoming
McCarthy adaptation Child of God premiering recently and this faithful
and very intriguing adaptation of William Faulkner's revered 1930 book
As I Lay Dying which had its premiere at the Cannes Film Festival
earlier this year.
It's clear that Franco filmed this atmospheric tale on a limited budget yet was able to recruit some serious acting talent to join him on screen as the Bundren family. Stand outs in the acting stakes are Tim Blake Nelson as toothless family head Anse and Marshall-Green as half cast and grizzled Jewel. All cast members acquit themselves well to difficult material, even Franco's real life buddy and funny man Danny McBride does well in a small cameo like roll. Franco's fine direction of fellow actors is commendable but his artistic decision not so much.
A strange choice by Franco is to put screen juxtaposition in a two frame format for roughly half of the films running time. This two pane structure comes off as merely annoying and takes away from the full screen beauty of much of the films images and natural landscape which are wonderfully captured by cinematographer Christina Voros. This technique was employed from an outsiders knowledge to portray the novels various voices and themes yet really is in no way integral to the films telling and as a finished product seems a tad on the pretentious side of things.
If you can overcome As I Lay Dying's almost tortuous opening 30 minutes where I found myself more than tempted to stop the film in its tracks there is much to admire in the film and by the last 20 minutes you will find yourself enthralled in this strange and depressing tale of a family lost in more ways than one. As I Lay Dying gives one hope that Franco will do justice to Child of God and perhaps one day his dream project of Blood Meridian.
3 concrete casts out of 5
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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Addie Bundren lay dying in rural Mississippi circa 1930. Darl and Jewel
go on an errand, and promise to be back before sundown. Their cart gets
stuck in a rut in the pouring rain, and they do not keep that promise.
Cash keeps working on Addie's coffin within sight of Addie's sick bed.
Cash continues to work on it after she is gone, in the rain, no less.
Cash finishes the coffin, Darl and Jewel get the cart unstuck. Addie has made Anse promise that she will be buried in the town of Jefferson. This proves to be more than a bit complicated.
There is a lot of talking and angst and back-biting as Darl, Jewel, Cash, Dewey Dell, Vardaman and Anse head to Jefferson to fulfill the promise. They encounter a number of challenges, such as weakened bridges across streams, dodgy fords, broken carts, lost animals, lost tools, lost coffin. Aside from that, Cash gets a compound fracture, which the local vet sets. To get a new team, Anse trades away just about everything the family had, including Jewel's beloved horse.
The corpse continues to rot, and the smell increases. Whenever they are near or in a town, they are not welcome. Cash's leg does not get better, and they set it with cement. Jewel gives up his horse.
The journey does not get any easier. Will the family accomplish its mission?
Cinematography: 9/10 Mostly excellent, but has a bit of camera shake to it.
Sound: 9/10 Again, mostly excellent. However, I would have been lost without the subtitles on Netflix. The century-old Southern accents were thick to say the least.
Acting: 8/10 Fine, by and large.
Screenplay: 8/10 Difficult story, well told.
Because of the low rating of 5.5 I nearly decided not to watch this movie. I would have missed a good movie had I paid too much attention to ratings and not given this movie a chance. It reminded me of the part in Lonesome Dove where one of the characters in that movie honors his promise to carry and deliver Gus's body in a wooden coffin a thousand miles to be buried back in his home in Texas. In this movie, we have a wife and mother who lived out her life to die naturally and the ordeal that a poor Mississippi family endures in getting her body back to where it is supposed to be buried. I found the actors to be well cast in their roles and I highly recommend this movie.
I remember, when this debuted at Cannes, a tweet from some critic which basically said "I can't wait to read the book so I can figure out what the Hell it was I just watched!" Now, I have read the book (around 13 years ago), but, man, does this ever seem absolutely impenetrable to anyone who hasn't. That doesn't necessarily effect me any as a viewer, but it should be noted. Unfortunately, even as a big fan of the book, this film really doesn't work very well. It's a valiant attempt, I think, but a failure nonetheless. Franco, clearly an amateur (though not without talent), utilizes split screens to tell his story. I can understand why, but it's just too busy. Tim Blake Nelson, who plays Anse, the patriarch of the Bundren clan, is incomprehensible. Again, I can understand why (the text clearly states that he is toothless), but he didn't need to be so impossible to understand (again, someone who is unfamiliar with the book will be utterly lost). Nelson really was a great choice to play Anse, so it's really unfortunate his performance goes down the toilet like this. The casting of the rest of the Bundrens isn't that great, either. Franco is easily the standout as Darl, but Jim Parrack and Logan Marshall-Green as Cash and Jewel respectively pretty much get lost because of their bland performances. Brady Permenter as Vardaman is a poor child actor. Ahna O'Reilly is not a bad actress, but she's 10 years older than the character of Dewey Dell, which is incredibly noticeable. Finally, there's Beth Grant (who still doubts your commitment to Sparkle Motion) as Addie. She's quite good, but, of course, dead for most of the movie. Franco also seems to miss the semi-comic tone of the novel, making it almost fully a tragedy. I mean, that final bit is kind of hilarious, but Franco doesn't play it as such. It just comes off as weird.
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