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When I saw this movie as a new release at Blockbuster, I wondered why I'd never heard of it before in light of the big name actors involved. I was excited to view it, thinking it would be one of those under-appreciated but great films that so often don't get the attention they deserve.
My first thought was that I was disappointed they would cast Gary Oldman as Rolfe. There are so many talented little people I thought it was a slap in the face. But I understand Oldman was the weight behind the film; so I can accept the casting. And I thought his performance was wonderful. Even knowing ahead of time who he was, I still struggled to recognize him throughout the film.
Once I got past that, I tried to understand the point behind the film. Was it supposed to be a comedy? A drama? An introspective? The direction seemed unclear to me, and I had a hard time getting attached to the story. Despite being able to greatly enjoy Peter Dinklage's (LOVE him!) and Patricia Arquette's performances, I struggled to find out the purpose of their characters, how much of the my attention was supposed to be focused on them, Rolfe, Steven or Carol. But I hung in there.
Then a little more than halfway through the film I was invested. I felt strongly for Steven and Carol and their situation. I bought into their love for each other, and I wanted them to make it; so my hopes were high. SPOILER: I thought their separation was the turning point and my heart ached for the happy ending I wanted. Now maybe I was fooled by Matthew McConaughey's and Kate Beckinsale's chemistry, which I thought was palpable and believable. But I had no reason to believe that Steven wouldn't make the changes he needed to make.
I also had no reason to think that Carol and Rolfe would get together. No, I did not see it coming, nor do I feel I should have. I read that Beckinsale's character "fell in love with" Goldman's character. When did that happen? Did I blink? I didn't buy that plot line for a second, and I feel that's because I wasn't led to. The writing and direction fell flat there, making the ending much too abrupt and confusing. In fact, I felt cheated and even a little angered by the ending. I don't know what the writer intended, but the film I saw did not lead up to this. Not only was Matthew McConaughey's character more likable and real to me than Gary Oldman's (a wonderful job, but a bitter character), but there was ZERO chemistry between Oldman and Beckinsale. Their ending up together with Steven's child left me feeling heartbroken and offended...enough to add this comment here. (Normally I don't presume enough of myself to comment, but I was so affected I couldn't help myself.)
All of this is reason enough for me not to have enjoyed this film, not to mention the fact that the dialogue felt contrived in parts, the intent seemed unclear, and the editing felt choppy, and I feel like there are too many loose ends. I gave the film a 3. It's saving grace was some convincing performances.
The Shipping News (2001)
Well acted and directed, despite some flaws
Lasse Halstrom has a way of bringing images to the minds of viewers without even necessarily putting them on screen. His combination of casting, controlled acting techniques, cinematography and music paint pictures you may not see if you aren't prepared. He has done this beautifully with "The Shipping News."
He begins by understanding that Newfoundland must not only be the setting for the film, but also the main character. Then he helps the actors understand that they are just a part of telling a story that conveys the spirit of Newfoundland. It is Newfoundland itself that the actors are supporting, and Newfoundland itself that builds the characters. The use of music and cinematography make palpable the cold and warmth of Newfoundland simultaneously, and make a possibly gloomy, downtrodden plot seem positive and optimistic.
To make sure the job is done correctly, he employs excellent casting, for the most part. Kevin Spacey's work here has been compared extensively to that of his "American Beauty" character, in that the shift of his personality from meek to bold is similar. But I didn't find that to be true. I thought Spacey conveyed Quoyle as tired and put-upon, but optimistic to the end. It was as if he was living his unfortunate life without realizing it was all that unfortunate, until good things started happening for him. He made me feel as if his character was child-like and accepting, which is very much not the case in "American Beauty."
I thought Cate Blanchett was remarkable and real. Judi Dench was totally believable, and delivered a terrific performance, despite some struggle with the accent. Julianne Moore was fine, although it seemed her trouble with the accent provided her with some trouble with her character, slipping out from time to time.
The supporting cast was excellently chosen. Scott Glenn, Pete Postlethwaite and Rhys Ifans were all quite effective as the newspaper crew. The greatest accolades, though, should go to Gordon Pinsent as Billy Pretty. His role was not the biggest, and his critiques have not been the brightest. But after seeing him in this performance, I feel very protective of him and of his part in this film, and must say that he is being greatly underestimated, as I imagine he has been throughout his career (based on how little we hear of him here in the States). He has such a grasp and thorough understanding of the character that he practically blends in with the setting. There is nothing contrived about his delivery; dialogue rolls off of his tongue (I'm sure being a native Newfoundlander helped). He wears his beard and costume as if he's never worn anything else. He is as at east with this role as I have ever seen any actor on film. And perhaps that is why he is not getting the attention he deserves--he is TOO natural! The quality of his work will have one of two effects: either he will steal every scen he's in because of his appearance and technique; or he will go unnoticed because of his complete believability. I'm sure he won't get it, for whatever reason, but this man deserves a Best Supporting Actor Oscar.
The story may not be one worth telling. And the writing, closely resembling that of the novel, may not always be authentically Newfoundland. But if you have already seen this picture, I encourage you to see it again bearing in mind that it is Newfoundland and its people that have a story to tell, and that these actors have done a good job in playing a role in that story. Look again, especially, at Gordon Pinsent, and see if you agree with my assessment. He understands acting as it is meant to be done.
The Thomas Crown Affair (1968)
Truly enjoyable film with a great cast.
I thought this film was very well executed. The casting was perfect, with both McQueen and Dunaway performing strongly in the leads, and a remarkably subtle, convincing performance by Canadian Gordon Pinsent in a supporting role. Great balance of action, suspense and romance makes it enjoyable for everyone. I look forward to the remake, but advise seeing the original first!
The Rowdyman (1972)
I found everything about this film to be beautiful. Beautiful writing, beautiful direction, beautiful characters, beautiful scenery. I had heard a great deal about it, and the only way I could see it was to buy it. I'm so glad I did!
The Red Green Show (1991)
I wish this show were shown more consistently, as I became addicted to it on PBS only to have it taken away! It still airs periodically, but not enough for this Canadian. They should make more use of Gordon Pinsent's character. Too funny!
Due South (1994)
Less is more.
"Less is more" is the concept that makes this series so compelling and fun to watch. The cast displays rare talent, with Paul Gross portraying a unique leading man, a refreshing change from other carbon-copy cop shows. Gordon Pinsent, as his ghost-of-a-father, is delightful and completely at ease as he appears to Gross to guide, advise and torment. He is, indeed, one of the most underused and underrated actors of our time. This series is a perfect example of what good quality television the United States is missing.
Power Play (1998)
I am a fan of both hockey and of Gordon Pinsent. What a treat to have seen them come together so successfully! Pinsent is blessed with hilarious dialogue, which he delivers with ease and brilliance. I hope they use him more. Dean McDermott is wonderful, too. Good writing, good cast, good show. I was fortunate enough to see a couple of episodes on a recent trip to Ontario, and was greatly disappointed to discover I wouldn't be able to see it upon my return to the U.S. This country is missing out on some top quality programming by not covering Canadian broadcasting.