Hitting theaters this week is the film adaptation of Anton Chekhov's classic play The Seagull. The film stars an all-star cast including Annette Benning, Saoirse Ronan, Corey Stoll, Elizabeth Moss, and Jon Tenney. For those unfamiliar with the play, the story is about an aging actress, Irina Arkadina (Bennett) who is visiting her brother and son in their country house while accompanied by her much young lover and talented writer Boris Trigorin (Stoll). Her son Konstantin (Billy Howle) is a struggling and moody writer who is in love with a local country girl named Nina (Ronan). Family tensions run high when Konstantin keeps finding his talents brushed aside by his mother and when his girlfriend finds herself falling in love with Boris. Love triangles pack this strange tale that follows this family over two visits to this summer home.
I am not going to lie after this film ended for me I had to spend a few minutes wondering, what did I just watch? I suppose my main thought was what was it about this story that demanded to be told? While I am still not sure this movie plays out like a Russian soap opera. All we are missing is some long dramatic pauses and up close camera shots that hold for just a moment too long while some intense music plays in the background. We can call it The Bold and The Beautiful and The Russian. Okay, well, maybe not. All I can say is that the drama is very high in this film and even while it is fairly high and a few of these characters react way over the top to everything, there are those who don't seem to react enough. It is almost as if half of the cast has checked out of this film because they are just over it. Considering that filming of this movie started in 2015, that may just be true.
The movie feels like we glimpse into this family's world with little context or reasons to care about any of them. Masha (Elizabeth Moss) is always dressed in black because she is mourning her life, while also pining for Konstantine, who will never love her because he is too self-absorbed. Mare Winningham plays Polina who, while she is married, is pining over Doctor Dorn (Jon Tenney). Irina is just struggling to stay relevant and young despite being well past her prime. Her beau kind of sucks because he basically goes whichever way the wind blows, by not only hooking up with Nina but also crawling back to Irina. This story is just too much. It feels like it tries too hard to be deep and important and maybe this translates better in a play than it does on the big screen, but for me, this movie just really did not work. it was like watching a trainwreck because as much as I wanted to turn away, I stayed just to see how this all plays out and in the end felt awful for sticking with it.
If Russian period films are your cup of tea then maybe you will enjoy The Seagull. If you do, I want you to sit down and explain to me why you do. I want to get it, but sadly I just don't. This one wasn't for me and I scored it with a C-. You have been warned.
The Seagull opens in Houston May 25th.