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With: Jon Foster, Sienna Miller, Mena Suvari, Peter Sarsgaard, Nick Nolte, Marc Macaulay, Omid Abtahi
Written by: Rawson Marshall Thurber, based on a novel by Michael Chabon
Directed by: Rawson Marshall Thurber
MPAA Rating: R for strong sexuality, nudity and language
Running Time: 95
Date: 01/20/2008

The Mysteries of Pittsburgh (2009)

1 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

One Lazy Summer

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Aside from all the great novels and stories, writer Michael Chabon has previously contributed to two terrific movies: Wonder Boys (2000) and Spider-Man 2 (2004). Unfortunately, this third one hits with a resounding thud. It's basically a coming-of-age story, set in the last summer of a young man's life before responsibility sets in, not unlike the recent Adventureland, but totally lacking that film's humanity. Instead we get the dull Jon Foster as the dull Art Bechstein, a blank, slightly arrogant nobody who happens to be the son of a gangster. Throughout the course of the film, several other characters make all his decisions for him, and he rarely engages them back or contributes anything; mostly he just stares. Working at a second-rate bookstore, he's glumly sleeping with his boss (Mena Suvari). At the same time, he meets the pretty Jane (Sienna Miller), followed by her exciting boyfriend Cleveland (Peter Sarsgaard), who works in some capacity with the gangsters. Cleveland and Jane make sure that Art has a very exciting summer, full of laughs, love and late nights. Too bad that they don't seem to have any life of their own; they exist only for the amusement of Art. Nick Nolte scowls through the role of Art's father, but he's not given enough material to really shine. Adaptor and director Rawson Marshall Thurber (Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story) blatantly foreshadows everything with his clumsy use of hand-held cameras and trendy roll-focus, while the script increasingly tests probability -- and finally verges on the laughable. What's worse is the film's gay subtext, which hints that homosexuality is merely a diversion on the way to a proper, heterosexual future. Even Chabon fans should avoid this.

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