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The Shipping News

Starring:Kevin Spacey, Julianne Moore, Judi Dench, Scott Glenn, Rhys Ifans, Pete Postlethwaite and Cate Blanchett
Directed By: Lasse Hallström
Rated: R

 

The Shipping News is brilliant, heartwarming, and divinely sublime as the cast delivers one helluva film! It's about one man discovering himself when he wasn't even looking; when he's all but just given up.

Those familiar with E. Annie 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 already known for disappearing into their roles, and with the combination of Proulx's perfect characters (nay, misfits) and Hallström's direction the actors seemed engulfed. Screenwriter, Robert Nelson Jacobs, has adapted her Pulitzer prize winning tale for the screen.

Quoyle (Kevin —- could this guy be sexier in L.L. Bean wear? Um, no! — 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 "intense" Blanchett) has absconded with their young daughter Bunny and his parents have done something equally dramatic (—though I shouldn't expose the story...). 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.

With literally nothing to lose, Quoyle (pronounced coil) manages to get his daughter back and follows Auntie Hamm 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. The scenery and landscaping is also as much a character, riddled with subplot, as any of the people we are to meet (Metaphor 101).

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 also experiencing a new found meaning to life 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 sad sullen little mundane life.

He meets an equally sad and sullen gal named Wavey (Julianne - glimmering/shimmering beauty- Moore). She' s a widow who wears her heart on her sleeve and is weary of starting any new romances. Poor Quoyle.

Ah, but 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.

Kevin "Cuddleasnarus Rex" Spacey brings us, perhaps, his finest performance to date in Quoyle .Yeah, yeah I know I say that in every review! But he keeps morphing and testing and growing continually topping himself ! Shaddup see. 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 is 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.

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 Quoyle'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.

The Welsh style 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 Hallström (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…

Snack recommendation: Plain Donuts, fried octopus tentacle sandwiches and tea


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) - and pick up the book (you're only treating yourself!) which is a tad more indepth - the names will come gloriously into the light. Trust me.


 



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