September 1, 2009


“The Mysteries of Pittsburgh”, based on the novel by Michael Chabon, is about a college grad’s last summer before plunging into the “real world.” Art Bechstein is a clean-cut, good guy on the path to success. One would never imagine that he, of all people, has a gangster father, a fact he prefers to keep secret. Between graduating college and starting a job his dad set up for him, Bechstein has a whole summer to kill. To keep from doing absolutely nothing, he gets a job at the Book Barn, where he sleeps with his boss and does mindless work. One day he runs into an old college buddy who takes him to a party where Art meets Jane, a beautiful, charming woman who, unfortunately for Art, has a boyfriend. After a course of events, Art, Jane, and Jane’s boyfriend Cleveland become inseparable. It’s a bit of an awkward love triangle mixed with a coming-of-age story. Having not read the book, I’ll have to judge the movie without considering its relationship to the novel. My review after the jump:

mysteries_of_pittsburgh_movie_image_peter_sarsgaard_01.jpgObviously, this story is not impressively unique, although the gangster dad aspect is an interesting twist. Otherwise, though, it’s a familiar story of a guy who has done everything right and just wants to take a break from obligation. Perhaps what makes this film worthwhile is the ability it has to still be a little shocking, even when it goes in the direction you assume it might. The cinematography, though not anything completely out of the ordinary, is also quite nice to look at.

The subtlety of the acting works well with the story. Jon Foster (The Informers) plays Art, who is stuck between wanting to please his father and being ashamed of him. With the help of his new friends, he starts to think about what he really wants for himself. Sienna Miller (G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra) plays Jane, who is intriguing but also a bit hard to read. Cleveland is one of the more complex characters and Peter Sarsgaard (Orphan) does a fine job in portraying all facets of his personality. As Art’s father, Nick Nolte (Afflication) is himself, acting just as you’d expect him to. Mena Suvari (The Garden of Eden) has a small role as Art’s boss and lover and she does a decent job as well.

mysteries_of_pittsburgh_movie_image_peter_sarsgaard_sienna_miller_01.jpgI think the problem with this film is that, like its protagonist, it does everything right. Perhaps there could have been more of a risk taken somewhere to make it a little more engrossing. Everything was nice but nothing was out of the ordinary. As much as I liked the film and cared about the characters, I could easily pause it and forget to come back to watch it. The Mysteries of Pittsburgh is visually appealing, acted well, and appropriately complex. However, it comes just short of being memorable.

Special Features

The DVD includes Behind-the-Scenes of The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, “Based Upon the Novel by Michael Chabon” featurette, and the theatrical trailer. Behind-the-Scenes of The Mysteries of Pittsburgh includes two short segments, totaling to about five minutes. It’s pretty much a collection of different clips from the set, including some bloopers. The featurette is ten minutes long and includes interviews with the book’s author, Michael Chabon, writer/director Rawson Marshall Thurber (Dodgeball), producer Michael London (The Informant!, Milk), and some of the actors. It’s a bit slow, but perhaps it’s more interesting to those who have read the novel.

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