(2001) dir. Lasse Hallström
Lasse Hallström is a competent mainstream Hollywood director, and The Shipping News is a decent, yet uninspired literary adaptation melodrama. Miramax, who produced this film, must have decided that Hallström is a specialist in the literary adaptation, since this is only the latest of several such productions that he has helmed in recent years (others have included Chocolat (2000), The Cider House Rules (1999), and What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (1993)). My favorite of his films, 1985’s My Life as a Dog was also a literary adaptation, so maybe that just simply is his thing.
This film seems a lot less inspired in a lot of ways, though. It seems like just the sort of film that Miramax has Hallström produce almost annually to take a shot at gaining some Oscar nominations. It’s also, like many of the other or Hallström
films, is a reasonably engaging narrative lacking in anything so edgy as to keep it from being the kind of film that one might watch with one’s parents or grandparents (I watched this one with my step-mother, for instance).
I find literary adaptation in interesting issue for film, but often in a more practical way. Rarely is a book the exact right length to convert into a film. More often, films must condense or subtract from a narrative to squeeze the story into a palatable two hour duration. I think that the first part of this film really felt like it was racing to get through some major plot moments before it got a chance to settle in to its Newfoundland setting and pace.
What does that say about this film? Not a whole lot, I’m afraid.