“The Mysteries of Pittsburgh”–one wild summer

“The Mysteries of Pittsburgh”

One Wild Summer

Amos Lassen

Adapted from the novel by Michael Chabon, “The Mysteries of Pittsburgh” is the story of one wild summer for Art Bechstein (Jon Foster). Art has sex with both men and women but does not identify himself sexually. He just graduated from college and he is to spend the summer studying for his license as a stockbroker. His father (Nick Nolte) is a gangster and keeps his son away from the family business and Art takes a job working in a bookstore. He sleeps with Phlox (Mena Suvari), his supervisor and she thinks that there is more to the relationship than does Art. Then he meets Jane (Sienna Miller) and Cleveland (Peter Sarsgaard) and things start to change. Cleveland is a bit of a thug while Jane is from a rich family but is on an adventure. Immediately there is sexual tension between the three and there is flirtation all around which eventually blows up in everyone’s face.
The film is set in Pittsburgh in the early 1980’s. We see Art having the feeling that he does not exist anymore and his summer is quite mundane until he meets Cleveland and Jane. They show him a side of Pittsburgh that he had never seen before and Art finds himself in the midst of an experience in which family, friends and love take on completely different meanings.

This is the story of new found freedom and the excitement that life can bring. Director Rawson Marshall Thurber made this film with little thought unfortunately and what could have been a wonderful film comes in as mediocre at best. Art is a hard character to follow because he is so totally uninteresting—he is devoid of ambitions and goals. He walks through life and never gets interesting; he is totally passive and follows what others do without letting us know anything about himself. Since he is the central character, the other members of the cast have nowhere to go either and they treat life as a party. The movie itself is simply a shallow look at what could have been an excellent film. There is a lot of sex, both gay and straight, lots of arguments, more sex, a wild chase scene and a death but none of it seems to really matter. All of the characters are one-dimensional and stand-ins for actual people who would handle the situations differently. We never are let into their characters and we never get any ideas as to why they act the way that they do. We do see them do lots of things but we never see why.
I remember loving the book but it has been severely altered for the movie and what really hurts is that it appears that the movie was made earnestly and the screenplay is underdeveloped. There is a redeeming factor though—gay comes out of the closet and onto the big screen so it is not a total loss.

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