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Aging actress Irina Arkadina (Annette Bening) pays summer visits to her brother Pjotr Sorin (Brian Dennehy) and her son Konstantin Treplyov (Billy Howle) on a country estate. On one occasion, she brings Boris Trigorin (Corey Stoll), a successful novelist, with her. Nina Zarechnaya (Saoirse Ronan), a free and innocent girl on a neighboring estate, falls in love with Boris.
"The Seagull" (2018 release; 98 min.) is the latest big screen adaptation of the Anton Chekhov theater play. As the movie opens, we are at "The Imperial Theater, Moscow, 1904", where an aging stage actress is saying her goodbyes left and right. The action then shifts to the dacha (country estate), where the actress' ailing brother is anxiously awaiting her arrival. Meanwhile the actress' son Konstantin is preparing to stage his latest play. He is assisted by a lovely young lady, and the two seem happily in love... At this point we're less than 10 min. into the movie but to tell you more of the plot would spoil your viewing experience, you'll just have to see for yourself how it all plays out.
Couple of comments: this is the latest film from director Michael Mayer, who is best known for his work on Broadway. Here he tackles what should be a natural for him: bringing a stage play onto the big screen. "The Seagull" has been made into a movie before (and a number of times at that), but I must admit that this is the first movie adaptation I have seen. All the elements are seemingly in place, none more so that a terrific ensemble cast led by Annette Bening, who seemingly only gets better as she ages, but also Saoirse Ronan, Elisabeth Moss, Brian Dennehy, and Billy Howle, just to name those. And it's certainly not the acting talent that is lacking. Bening and Ronan are simply terrific. (As an aside, Ronan and Howle are co-starring as a couple in not one but two movies currently playing at my local art-house theater here in Cincinnati: besides the Seagull, they also star in "On Chesil Beach". What are the odds of that?) Yet despite all this, "The Seagull" is simply not a great, or even good, movie. We watch these character but have no emotional investment in them. When Konstantin has yet another outburst (almost like a five year old's tantrum), we just wonder--why? When romantic relationships may or may not develop, we wonder where the spark is for that. It' a darn shame, and frankly I was relieved when the movie's end titles started rolling, as I had had more than my fill of this.
"The Seagull" was filmed exactly 3 years ago (and one can notice it when you compare Ronan in this and in "On Chesil Bech", filmed 1 1/2 yrs. after this). Why has this been sitting on the shelf for so long? One can only wonder... The movie opened this weekend at my local art-house theater here in Cincinnati, and based purely on the strong ensemble cast, I decided to check it out. The Friday early evening screening where I saw this at was attended okay but not great (about 10 people). Frankly I haven't heard single buzz about this movie, and I can't see this playing long in the theater. If you have an interest in big screen play adaptations, or are a fan of anyong in the ensemble cast, I'd suggest you check this out, be it in the theater (while you still can), on VOD, or eventually on DVD/Blu-ray, and draw your own conclusion.
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