“Manchester By The Sea” A Failing Film Better Left Alone!
I held off publishing my negative opinion about “Manchester by the Sea” in hopes that the film would simply disappear into the ether of amateur film-making.
Yet, I was wrong!
Apparently, I am in the minority of those film judges who found this particular film to be worthy of nothing. In fact, I found Casey Affleck, whom I consider more talented than his self-aggrandizing brother, Ben Affleck, clearly faltering in speech, action, and emotions.
The plot of this highly contrived film revolves around an uncle who has to oversee his teenage nephew after the father’s untimely death.The problem lies with Kenneth Lonergan, both the director and writer of this film.He seems incapable of writing a convincing script with subtle points of tension or drama. Considering that he was also the screenwriter of “Gangs Of New York”, another film which I found lacking in both psychological drama and focus, I am not surprised that Lonergan wrote “Manchester By The Sea”.
I had to wait a good half-an-hour to uncover why Casey Affleck was such a misanthrope so by the time I discovered his tragic backstory, I had already lost interest the film. Screenplays, as well as theatric pieces, follow a certain logic which compels the viewer to become engaged within a certain amount of time. Minus that sequence of an engaging narrative filled with interesting characters of all types, a film dies a sudden death without any recourse for resuscitation.
Affleck’s friend, Matt Damon, is one of the producers of this film. Matt has a serious obligation to override the narcissism of the writer/director and steer the film along the lines of Matt’s successful film, “Good Will Hunting”. In that classic film, we had a cast of characters, particularly Robin Williams and Matt Damon, interacting in a convincing way that compels the viewer to try to understand the personal dynamic of this townie whose genius is concealed.
Both films were shot in Mass. Both films rely heavily on the Boston/Mass. accent and point of view. However, this director’s/writer’s concept of Mass. as portrayed in the upscale suburb of Manchester by the Sea truly lacks credulity or any engaging vitality.
The opening scenes of this film show Casey Affleck working at a myriad of menial jobs. He is always angry and depressed. So frustrating that when I finally discover the reasons for his unrelenting anger/depression, I was no longer interested in watching. Subsequent scenes attempting to elucidate his present condition, devolved into a pastiche of helter-skelter flashbacks that were annoying, confusing and poorly edited/directed.
I will say this:
Despite my negative review of this film, I am witnessing a cleverly orchestrated PR campaign that will attempt to garner several Oscars for both the director/writer and Casey Affleck. Happy “Hunting” and “Good Will” to all who participated in this dubious endeavor !