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"The Shipping News"

Directed by Lasse Hallström.
Written by Robert Nelson Jacobs.  Based on the novel by E. Annie Proulx. 
Starring Kevin Spacey, Cate Blanchett, Julianne Moore and Judi Dench.
Release Year:  2001 
Review Date:  12/28/01 


Another day, another flick!  This time, I strolled over to the local moviehouse to see the new Kevin Spacey film "The Shipping News."  I never even saw a trailer for this film, and besides knowing that it was rated R for "Language, sexuality and disturbing images", I had no idea what was in this film besides what was on its poster:  Spacey, and Julianne Moore.

Since I am going to the movies three times a week, and watching lots of TV while at home, and I STILL didn't see a preview for this movie, that means that you probably didn't either.  As such (and, because the four of you at work today that are actually reading this review could give a shit), I will entertain you with a random Kevin Spacey note.

I was watching the kiss-ass "Inside the Actors Studio" on Bravo tonight, and they happened to be showing the Kevin Spacey episode from last year.  As some of you know, the host, James Lipton, likes to do random word association near the end of the show.  So, Kevin's favorite sound?  Laughter.  Job he never wants to work:  Mortician.

Favorite curse word?  RAT BASTARD.

Yes, he said "rat bastard."  Now, I liked Spacey before this interview, but now, I love him.  As many of you know, I say rat bastard anywhere from 15 to 20 times a day, so if someone else loves saying it, it's all good to me!

Okay, so how is "The Shipping News", anyway?  Slightly below average.  Spacey plays a nitwit printing press operator that meets a no-good whore (Cate Blanchett) at a gas station one day.  Three scenes later, he has got a kid by her, the whore is dead, and he has moved with his daughter (inexplicably named Bunny, to further push the fact that she was bore by a whore) from Poughkeepsie, NY to Newfoundland to "start a new life."  Lasse Haelstrom, who directed last year's chocolate-themed Oscar nominee "Chocolat", directs here from a book text of the same name as the film's title.  Much like "Chocolat", there ain't too much going on here, but that is what supposedly makes this so interesting.

Spacey is his usual self--but, not a usual suspect--as the nitwitted father of one, but his support here is pretty average for a film of this sort.  "Usual Suspects" costar Pete Postlethwaite, Oscar-nominated Julianne Moore, Scott Glenn and Oscar regular Judi Dench all appear here, but Dench in particular is nowhere near potential.  Part of that is a plodding screenplay that--much like the Newfoundland weather--is dreary throughout.  A haunted house subplot, Spacey's day job at a newspaper and a terrible secret harbored by Dench all seem to be fighting for main-plot superiority, but none win out.  Factor in a Spacey/Moore romance and you've got all the kids out with nowhere to go.

Has Spacey's legendary run ended?  Temporarily, yes.  After a three-year run of "Se7en", "The Usual Suspects", "A Time to Kill" and "LA Confidential", it has been hit or miss since then (at least, in his film career, since his stage career has been excellent for years) with misses in "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil", "The Big Kahuna", "Pay It Forward", and possibly this film.  Hopefully, this rat bastard will be in something good soon!

Rating:  Rental


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
© 1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09