Review by Steve Rhodes
2 stars out of 4
Lasse Hallström's THE SHIPPING NEWS, a schmaltzy snoozer, is Miramax's canonical
weeper for the Christmas season. I'm not a fan of Lasse Hallström's THE CIDER
HOUSE RULES, but it is superior to THE SHIPPING NEWS, which, even if it is based
on a popular novel, isn't much of a movie. Filled with eccentric characters of
the type that you never find in real life, the rambling movie doesn't go much of
anywhere and then stops randomly and abruptly. There are the odd satisfying
incidents, but, overall, it just marks time.
Quoyle (Kevin Spacey), the story's central character, is a blue collar worker
who is devoid of confidence. A fling with a stranger named Petal Bear (Cate
Blanchett) produces a child. A pudgy-faced Spacey has never been made to look
worse, and Blanchett, in her hooker-reject clothes, is the complete opposite of
a soccer mom.
One day, Aunt Agnis (Judi Dench) arrives on Quoyle's door. Not long afterwards,
Agnis, Quoyle and his daughter leave to go to live in the family home in far
away Newfoundland, which Agnis pronounces as Newfound Land. The house is in
ruins and holds more than one deep, dark family secret under its rotting roof.
They arrive in a huge, blowing June snowstorm, which nonpluses Quoyle and the
audience. Agnis tries to explain how unexplainable the Newfoundland weather can
be. (The most inexplicable part of the weather is the way that they go to bed
when there is deep snow outside and wake up to find that it has almost entirely
vanished by early next morning.)
Jack Buggit (Scott Glenn), the owner of the small local newspaper, gives Quoyle
a job as a reporter, a position for which he feels totally incapable. Jack
tries to make it simple by describing one of the paper's guiding principles.
"We run a front page picture of a car wreck every week, whether we have one or
not," Jack tells Quoyle. All Quoyle has to do is go to all of the car wrecks,
of which there are plenty -- people drop like flies in this town -- and record
what he sees.
Although there are a few choice moments, with one of the best being an incident
to rival SHREK's outhouse scene, most of the manipulative film is completely
forgettable. Perhaps those who loved the novel, which I've never read, will be
equally pleased with its motion picture adaptation. Personally, I didn't care
about any of the characters, and I had trouble staying awake since so little of
interest happened. Skip this syrupy movie. If you have a sugar urge, bake up
a fresh batch of Christmas cookies instead.
THE SHIPPING NEWS runs 2:00. It is rated R for "some language, sexuality and
disturbing images" and would be acceptable for teenagers.
Copyright © 2001 Steve Rhodes