SUNDANCE 2008

Sundance Review: The Mysteries of Pittsburgh

by
January 25, 2008

The Mysteries of Pittsburgh is the second of two movies from Sundance that were set and filmed in Pittsburgh, a city I spent most of my college years living in (the other movie was Smart People). That alone got me interested in this and I went in looking forward to something funny and cheesy, particularly because of Rawson Marshall Thurber's previous film, Dodgeball. What I discovered was not particularly funny, but rather a very endearing drama with a wonderful score and great characters. It's not anything close to a masterpiece, but Mysteries of Pittsburgh is still a great film.

Art Bechstein (Jon Foster) just graduated from college and is heading into his last free summer before he figures out what he's going to do with the rest of his life. His father is a prominent mobster that Art eats a nice dinner with once a month. When a random encounter with a friend brings him to a party, he meets and falls instantly in love with Jane (Sienna Miller), but quickly discovers that she has a boyfriend named Cleveland (Peter Sarsgaard). With nothing better to do over the summer, Art makes friends with Cleveland and starts to hang out with Jane and Cleveland more than attend his own job. His lust for Jane and the time he spends with the troublemaker Cleveland soon cause his perfect little dream life to start to fall apart.

Before I get into the meat of this review, I've got big bone to pick with the story. What I don't get is why someone would spend that much time as a third wheel in a relationship. Maybe I just don't approve of the idea or find it absolutely ridiculous, but if you liked a girl, would you spend two months of your summer hanging out with her boyfriend and her while they were dating and sleeping together? That just doesn't make sense, it seems like a giant waste of time that would only brood jealousy, which is what did in the end. But case in point, that aspect of the story is a bit skeptical and brings up that big question. And that's only one of many parts of the story that leave me with a sore spot.

What this comes down to is the quintessential question - what do you look for in a movie: good production values, music, and actors, or just a great story. With The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, it's got great actors, it's got great production values and cinematography, and it's got a great score, and when you combine all of that it can still be very enjoyable. I have a huge soft spot for piano based scores that are used well, and Mysteries of Pittsburgh uses a piano based score by Theodore Shapiro extremely well. While it may not have been the best script or the best story out there, it is a film with so many other great values that it's almost possible to look past the rough edges of the story and instead at a film that I thoroughly enjoyed.

The Mysteries of Pittsburgh review

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  • JET
    The foul mouthed slut Sienna Miller was constantly drunk and stoned on illegal drugs during the filming here of "The Mysteries of Pittsburgh", and she was run out of town just before being arrested. ALL the films that the idiot Sienna Miller has been associated with, automatically received the Kiss of Death and have never made a profit. We doubt this film will even go straight to DVD after only a 2 week run in theaters, but will go straight to late night cable tv.
  • http://www.myspace.com/mysteriesofpittsburgh franQ
    Hmmm... So far you seem to be one of the few who have enjoyed this film. My first question is: have you read the book? Because Rawson Marshall Thurber's adaptation is NOTHING like it. Which might answer your question as to why wouls a guy spend two months hanging out with a girl and her boyfriend being a third wheel in their relationship? Because in the BOOK, Art Bechstein does NOT do this. In the book, Art falls in love with a woman (Phlox--if you blinked, you may have missed her in the movie!) and a GAY guy named Arthur (NOT in the movie at all!) Phlox and Arthur aren't the least bit involved (other than they work together at the Hillman Library--also not mentioned in the film if I remember correctly from reading the screenplay) so Art DIVIDES his time between the two. There is no menage a trois going on with Art, Jane, and Cleveland--who is 100% straight in the BOOK. I hate to harp on the book so much, but it's my fave of all-time and seeing it altered beyond recognition like this has KILLED me... Hence my launching of the Official MOP Film Boycott: http://www.myspace.com/mysteriesofpittsburgh Do yourself a favor if you haven't read the BOOK, do so...
  • SDM
    You guys should really stop putting down movies just because they're nothing like the books. After all, they're nothing more than a re-imagining of the original concept, regardless of how far-fetched the ideas may be by comparison. Yes, the book may be better for those who choose to read it, but you have to consider 2 things. First, not everyone likes to read, but even more importantly, that sorta' book is not the kind of thing that everyone in the world could just get into. I mean, it's a very slow and lacking book, even if the story does go fairly deep and cover more bases. Second, in this particular case, the movie is so different that I would go as far as to simply say the title and a few names were borrowed, but that's about it. Because of that single fact, compare it to movies such as the "Resident Evil" series. Yes, they're entirely different from the books, but if you ignore that fact, they're still good movies on their own. Please stop pushing your opinion on other people just because YOU think the book is better. It's just immature and pointless. And heck, the movie is more entertaining to watch than that crazy book is to read by far. At least it has an element of shock and surprise instead of the predictable ride that is the book! Summary: You may think the book is better, but don't state it like it's a fact. Look at this as a movie and the book as a book. They're not one in the same, so rid yourself of that idea. You'll be a lot happier when you can get off your high horse and accept things for what they are!

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