Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

'The Shipping News' Might Float Your Boat

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

'The Shipping News' Might Float Your Boat

Article excerpt

Byline: Matt Soergel, Times-Union staff writer

The Shipping News is another careful literary adaptation from Lasse Hallstrom, he of The Cider-House Rules, Chocolat and the wonderful What's Eating Gilbert Grape.

And it has Kevin Spacey in it.

It's off to a good start already. But this adaptation of E. Annie Proulx's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel is just a qualified success.

It certainly looks great: The coast of Newfoundland doesn't require any special effects to help it be more picturesque. And Hallstrom crafts a few terrific scenes and gets some zesty performances from a colorful supporting crew of cutups. But he has trouble with his three lead actors (yes, that includes Spacey).

And he never really gets in touch with the gloomy introspection of Proulx's book, which was far more depressing than the movie is.

After a while the film becomes just a highlights reel of the memorable moments from the book: a curse, a mystery, some vaguely psychic visions and a stew of dark family secrets pried, one bit of info at a time, from the locals.

The effect is watchable, certainly, but it never reaches the intensity or the gravity of superior literary adaptations -- In the Bedroom, for example.

The Shipping News does begin with an arresting image: A growling dad pushes his son into a lake to teach him how to swim; the boy's face fills the screen as he sinks limply to the bottom, his face morphing into that of the glum, adult Spacey.

He's playing the glum Quoyle, the protagonist -- you can't really call him a hero -- of this story. He's a sad-sack ink-setter at a newspaper in upstate New York who, after a family tragedy, moves to his family's ancestral home in Newfoundland, along with his daughter and his aunt.

They move into the leaky, old family house, lashed to a hunk of coastal rock by steel cables that moan and hum in the wind. …

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