Retro Review: Shipping News

The bitter cold wind of a East Coast town grips your face and the smell of new fallen snow brings new hope to your winter’s chill. Jack Frost and all his winter magic swims passively through the new film “The Shipping News”.

Kevin Spacey stars as Quoyle, a man who can’t seem to stand up to the turmoils of life no matter what is thrown at him. Quoyle’s first challenge comes when he falls in love with a lost-spirit named Petal (Cate Blanchett).

Petal uses Quoyle purely for a non-committal sexual rendezvous which results in Quoyle thinking he has actually fallen for her. Eventually their crazy relationship results in a daughter, Bunny, and Petal estranges Quoyle and their daughter.

Fate rears its ugly head and Quoyle is confronted by his long lost Aunt Agnes (Judi Dench). Quoyle and his daughter follow Aunt Agnes to Newfoundland, Canada where he is promised that he will learn more about his family’s heritage. Quoyle meets a new woman (Julianne Moore) in Newfoundland and it seems that his family harbors an ancient secret.

How will this new move and the strange family revelations change Quoyle forever?

”Shipping News” is directed by acclaimed director Lasse Hallstrom who has weaved other acclaimed films like “The Cider House Rules”, “My Life as a Dog” and last year’s critical darling “Chocolat”. Hallstrom seems to have lost his heart filled ways when he tackles the Northern reflection Spacey’s Quoyle character has to endure in “News”.

Hallstrom does well like usual with supporting characters but loses a lot of ground with Quoyle when he moves the character to Newfoundland.

The loss is felt when we see the film become more about the people around Quoyle and not what might be going on inside this shallow and lost man.

I was disappointed when the film ended because I never felt like Quoyle really accomplished anything. I liked how Hallstrom handles Dench, Moore and Blanchett because each of those characters and performances seem to grow through the events placed in the film.

Is Spacey supposed to be a tourist through these people’s lives and is the audience supposed to look past that there really is no real conclusion to Quoyle.

Spacey handles Quoyle like a lost school-boy and it’s interesting to see him do something duller than his usual fair but that’s about all.

The performances from Blanchett and Moore are very strong. My favorite character was Aunt Agnes because of the many dimensions that Dench brings to such a subtle character.

”Shipping News” is supposed to have all the splendor of an Oscar contender and it has all the ingredients. This films proves that even if you build a spectacular film on paper doesn’t mean its really any good when its done.

The reason it probably isn’t any good is because of its tone and there seems to a hollow torment echoing from the whole production which consumes any real life in the film. It’s not the cheeriest film of the year but even beneath that exterior beats no real cheer.

(3 out of 5)

So Says the Soothsayer.

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