An emotionally beaten man with his young daughter moves to his ancestral home in Newfoundland to reclaim his life.An emotionally beaten man with his young daughter moves to his ancestral home in Newfoundland to reclaim his life.An emotionally beaten man with his young daughter moves to his ancestral home in Newfoundland to reclaim his life.
The Shipping News is about one man discovering himself when he wasn't even looking; when he's all but just given up.
Those familiar with Proulx's visceral scripting of lives -not-so-ordinary-in-reality will be pleasantly coddled as her Shipping News characters are brought to amazing life at the hands of some our time's finest actors; Dame Judi Dench, Julianne Moore, Cate Blanchett and Kevin Spacey. Each is known for disappearing into their roles, and with the combination of Proulx's perfect characters (misfits) the actors seemed engulfed.
Quoyle (Kevin-- clearing a spot for a few award trinkets as we speak- Spacey) is a sad, nearly nonexistent man. He gets no respect from anyone he holds near and dear. He's a guy you pass on the street and may remark at, if only to notice how sad he appears. His life is nothing spectacular. His story? His story is another kettle of boiling water all together
His life takes a few dramatic turns as we meet him. His gallivanting wife Petal (Cate Blanchett) has absconded with their young daughter Bunny and his parents have done something equally dramatic. The events find him thrown together with his tough-as-nails Newfoundland born aunt Agnis Hamm (Dame Judi Dench). With his run of luck at the deeper end of long over, she invites him to try a fresh start, up there.
He's got nothing to lose so follows her up to his family's historic birthplace. A barren rock his people called home, only forty odd years ago, called Killick-Claw. Think, middle of nowhere with fantastic cliff and ocean views and the restaurant is the only restaurant. Small, quaint and a perfect place to hide from your troubles and the world.
He and his precocious, and "sensitive," daughter Bunny are adjusting and getting to know their new neighbors on the small hamlet, that appears to never see the season of summer.
Quoyle is experiencing a newfound meaning to life (his life especially)in Newfoundland. He is hired as a small-time reporter for the local rag-mag and community pulse serving paper The Gammy Bird. His writing starts to affect all aspects of his mundane life.
He also meets an equally sad and sullen gal named Wavey (Julianne "Best Actress 2002" Moore). She' s a widow who wears her heart on her sleeve and is weary of starting any new romances. Poor Quoyle.
Mysterious happenings and awakenings start to emerge all around Quoyle as well as a new sense of self, friendships and life. What's it mean?
The Shipping News is old time story telling at it's finest. Newfoundland in itself is a bit of a mystical place to most of us. Proulx creates her story's characters so rich in dimension with that same timeless appeal like a Huck Finn or Nicholas Nickleby, one expects to look them up in the local phone book when in town. But it's the subtle expert performances for subtle yet animated characters make this simply a masterpiece. The award shows are going to be quite redundant this year... A Beautiful Mind and its wonderful cast and performances will be The Shipping News' only competition in the BIG 3 categories - for sure.
Spacey (whom I adore to the point of actually being speechless in front of), brings us, perhaps, his finest performance to date in Quoyle (pronounced coil). Kev reveals Quoyle's soul is wounded and yet his heart, even with all the injustices it has faced in its forty-something years that should be bitter and hard, manages to pound sweet, strong and hopeful. It's an unbelievable performance. Not that I'm surprised This man is a
scrumptious treat for the senses not unlike like fresh fried Ipswich clams drizzled in tarter sauce with a side of old fashioned delectable helping of New England style cole slaw!
Why's Spacey so great? Is it because he hung with Jack Lemmon in his formative years as an actor? Or because (like myself) he adores the complicated gritty works of Eugene O'Neill? Perhaps, because he makes himself aloof to keep his personality out of his films, thusly making himself completely disappear into the film? Um yeah. Disagree? Get your own review. K-PAX aside, his work always brilliant, intense, or funny, or light it's what ever he wants it to be. I'd breed with the man, sure, but I'm also sure I will not be alone in my admiration for his performance here. Sorry, Russell, your also grand and one helluva actor, but your "butt" has been elegantly drop kicked by Cadet Fowler for the mad mad race for Oscar
Judi Dench is, as always, an inspiration on film.
Julianne Moore (Wavey) worked her plane Jane gorgeous self into a yarn of great depth and feeling. We wanted to make her tea and give her a hug by the end of the film.
Cate "I'm in every movie on the marquee this winter" Blanchett is a chameleon- somebody check her body temperature and dining habits! As Quale's rude, nasty, sluty bimbette squared love interest, Petal, she makes you loath her within the first forty-eight frames.
Petal and Quoyle's offspring, little "Bunny", was played by triplets Alyssa, Kaitlyn, and Lauren Gainer. These gals could give Haley Joel Osment a run for his bubblegum money. They played beside veteran thespians like it was their birthright. You can picture the little dolls finished with their scenes sneaking off to be kids again "please pass the play dough, please, I'm done with my scene mum."
Pete "Kobayashi" Postlewaite plays Quoyle's nemesis at the paper with tons of humor and that smoothness of delivery he's so famous for. Love this man.
Welsh and Sheppard's Pie of a manly man, actor Ryhs Ifans ( Little Nicky, Notting Hill) was adorable as Quoyle's new friend B. Beaufield Nutbeem. It was such a pleasure to see him- on so many different levels.
Director, Lasse Hallstrom (My Life as a Dog, Cider House Rules) is famous for quirky studies on the human condition. Here he's strung his cast together like a Newfoundland fisherman's net and draws them so tightly together so as not a syllable of dialog slips away. In lesser hands The Shipping News could have been a sentimental sugar encrusted bakers dozen of stale over done leaden donuts.
There's so many more involved and each deserves accolades for bringing an already warm story to the screen with a remarkable toasty reality that makes you laugh, stir, and wonder I feel bad for Ron Howard. He finally gets a nod or two and he has to be up against this film.
Snack recommendation: Plain Donuts, fried octopus tentacle sandwiches and tea
Headline: The Shipping News looms over small cinema. Crowds, hearing the buzz, rush to see it opening day! The masses exclaim:" for once a film is better than its hype."
Blunt Aside: Have you noticed the names I've listed; Petal Wavey, Bunny? That's just some of Proulx's magic. She chooses her names in such a way as to metaphorically manipulate your mind without your even knowing it. Even Quoyle has significance. After you see the film (which is mandatory) the names will come gloriously into the light. Trust me.
- Dec 23, 2001