FRIDAY NIGHT/MOVIE THEATER REVIEW: Last night, I saw “Manchester by the Sea,” which stars Casey Affleck (Good Will Hunting, Gone Baby Gone), Lucas Hedges (Moonrise Kingdom, The Zero Theorem), Kyle Chandler (Friday Night Lights [TV series], The Wolf of Wall Street), C.J. Wilson (The Intern, Demolition), and Michelle Williams (Dawson’s Creek [TV series], Shutter Island). It is written and directed by Kenneth Lonergan (Analyze This, Gangs of New York). When his brother passes away, Lee Chandler (Affleck) returns to his hometown of Manchester to take care of his nephew, Patrick (Hedges), until they can figure out what to do about the current situation. In the meantime, Chandler must deal with his past, which is constantly being dug up the moment he walks into town.
“Manchester by the Sea,” has a lot of terrific aspects. The acting is superb, the cinematography is great, the setting is stunning, and the dialogue is intriguing. When I walked into the theater, I expected nothing less, but I will admit that, when compared to the praise this film has gotten, it’s a bit overrated. This is a movie that requires a certain taste. The writer isn’t out to please anyone, but rather tell a story of depression and anguish. On top of that, this has no beginning, middle, or end. It takes a piece of one man’s life and presses play. From the get-go, we see Lee Chandler tending to his demeaning job and what it entails. It lasts a solid ten minutes, and even though it held nothing special, I was engaged. Chandler’s life in the present is interesting, even though it isn’t. What he has to return to in Manchester is the driving force of this narrative, and unraveling his past is the big mystery. It’s a long venture, spanning two hours and seventeen minutes of nothing but conflict and dialogue. Although I knew of its length, I will say that it never felt long, nor had a dull moment. All of it had something to contribute, mainly because it is all reality. There is no endgame nor message to get to; it is all just…there. The acting that brought this story to life was some of the best this year has to offer. This is the first feature I’ve seen where Casey Affleck is the main star, and he did exceptionally well. His expressions and approach to situations told more than his words. Lucas Hedges blew me away, and the rest of the supporting actors did really well too, especially Kyle Chandler and Michelle Williams. Where this film took place was beautiful. For some odd reason, I’m a sucker for close houses on hills, the water, and lighthouses in a backdrop; it offers a pulp that I enjoy to take part in viewing. All of the pieces set in place for this release are Oscar-worthy, but as I mentioned before, I couldn’t help but think that this wasn’t as great as it was meant to be. The main reason I get that feeling is because there is nothing to pull from this movie. Yes, it’s a writer’s work and doesn’t hold to the basic structure most releases do; I admire this film for stepping out of boundaries. However, once this flick ended, I felt empty inside. Little changed from the start of the experience, and the adventure was rather short-lived. It’s as if I intruded on someone’s life and left at the wrong moment. I wanted to see more, since it ended so abruptly, and I guess that works well on the writer’s behalf. Outside of the story itself, there isn’t much else to pick at. I could gripe about the cussing (which I usually deduct a few points for because I’m not the biggest fan of habitual cursing in film), but that would be it. There’s many great moving parts in this, and I was engaged throughout. It’s a very interesting tale to see unfold, however I wish it had meaning. I’m sure that they took the realistic approach, where a certain portion of life doesn’t have to have meaning, but I don’t know; in the case of what I saw, I wish there was better closure for the viewer. Nonetheless, if you are ever into dialogue-heavy movies with actually great dialogue, you should check this one out sometime. I’m sure that it would be engaging for a lot of people. FINAL SCORE: 89%= Juicy Popcorn
Here is the trailer: