The Shipping News (2001)

shipping news poster 2001 movie
6.5 Overall Score
Story: 5/10
Acting: 7/10
Visuals: 9/10

Great location, good cast

Story tries too hard

Movie Info

Movie Name: The Shipping News

Studio: Miramax

Genre(s): Drama

Release Date(s):  December 18, 2001 (Premiere)/January 18, 2002 (US)

MPAA Rating: R

shipping news seal flipper pie julianne moore kevin spacey

Just eat your seal flipper pie and shut up

For Quoyle (Kevin Spacey), life has always been down.  He grew up with a rocky relationship with his father, got an unfulfilling career in paper printing, and is trapped in a failed marriage to a woman named Petal (Cate Blanchett) who sleeps with whoever she wants despite his love for her.  When Petal leaves Quoyle with a daughter, Quoyle finds himself going to his ancestral Newfoundland home with Bunny to stay with his aunt Agnis (Judi Dench) and start a new life.  Quoyle discovers himself in the position of a reporter (a job he doesn’t understand) and seeing a woman named Wavey Prowse (Julianne Moore) who has her own problematic past.  Unfortunately for Quoyle, the past can sometimes drag you down, and escape is not possible.

Directed by Lasse Hallström, The Shipping News is a family drama.  The film is an adaptation of Annie Proulx’s Pulitzer Prize winning 1993 novel.  It was released to mixed reviews.

shipping news kevin space lost at sea

From not wanting to go into the water to going out on the ocean alone in a crappy boat seems like a pretty big (and quick) jump

I saw The Shipping News in the theater.  Even then, you could watch the movie and see that it was an “Oscar grab” type of movie.  It was full of damaged characters, big symbolism, and a great location.  The problem with The Shipping News is that it is obvious…and good books often lose nuances when transferred to the screen.

The story feels like it is trying too hard.  A novel doesn’t have to pound in symbolism and emotion, it often has hundreds of pages to develop them…the unsaid in a novel builds the characters often more than what is said.  Here you have a complete sad-sack in Quoyle and he keeps being pulled under by his past.  Everyone in the movie is caught up in the past and their lives don’t start improving until that past is pushed aside (or literally blown away).  The themes aren’t bad, but they feels too obvious.

The movie (like many of his movies) has the legacy of Kevin Spacey to deal with.  This was the height of Spacey’s fame and followed his big turn in American Beauty.  He is a lot like a less successful version of his American Beauty character in that he directionless and trying to experience new things.  He’s joined by a bunch of other characters who are burdened like the always solid Judi Dench and Julianne Moore.  Cate Blanchett plays outside of her normal characters as the wild Tulip, and she doesn’t quite seem to work in the small role.  Scott Glenn, Pete Postlethwaite, and Rhys Ifans also have roles.

shipping news house blows away

The house just wants to be free of the past…how deep

The movie does have some great scenery.  Proulx had the location of Newfoundland as part of her signing deal and the location works the best in the film.  The world is cold, but there is still a beauty to it.  Other than the frigid temperatures and isolation, there are worse places to be stuck.

The Shipping News is a pretty forgettable movie with some memorable moments.  While watching it, I remembered aspects of the story as they developed but realized the movie didn’t leave much of an impression.  The movie feels like “art-house for everyone” type of movie that tries to make people feel smart by being accessible.  Read the book and skip the movie.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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