Nobody invited me to see The Mysteries of Pittsburgh (Peach Arch, opening today in NY and LA). I’ve asked the film’s p.r. reps if I can get a screener from them so I can sit in a Starbucks somewhere in Manhattan and watch it on my computer. If that doesn’t work I guess I’ll actually pay to see it this afternoon. Because I know Peter Sarsgaard’s performance will be engaging (because he always is), and because I’ve always wanted to see it (despite the buzz) as a way of paying tribute to Sienna Miller‘s ballsiness is calling Pittsburgh “shitsburgh.” She earned my lifelong respect with that one quote. On top of which Pittsburgh deserves the sobriquet — I’ve been there.
Of course, I had a sense from the get-go that The Mysteries of Pittsburgh might be a problem movie. I suspected this when I saw that the director’s name was Rawson Marshall Thurber. That’s one too many names, man. That’s the name of a guy with ego issues or family issues or something. It sounds southern, literary, to-the-manor-born and pretentious as hell. I remember Francis Coppola announcing back in the early ’80s that he was officially dropping “Ford” as his middle name because he knew it sounded too high falutin’ and obnoxious.
Entertainment Weekly‘s Owen Gleiberman gave it a D, which is exceptional given EW’s tendency to grade on a curve. “The paradox of a truly atrocious literary adaptation,” he wrote, “is that everything on screen — a crummy postcollegiate job, a love triangle, even a ?burglary — must be embedded with little wisps of higher ”meaning,” and therefore ends up meaning nothing at all.
“In The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, a stillborn rendering of Michael Chabon’s first novel, Jon Foster plays Art Bechstein, the son of a Jewish gangster (Nick Nolte), but he comes off as the dullest of WASP preppies. His fascination with a young couple — heartfelt Jane (Miller) and her pretentious, chopper-riding, bisexual boyfriend Cleveland (Sarsgaard) — “plays like Gossip Girl written by a bad F. Scott Fitzgerald imitator.”