Chabon Enthusiasts Will Find Much to Disdain in The Mysteries of Pittsburgh


After a history of preproduction false starts, Michael Chabon’s 1988 debut novel gets its promised widescreen adaptation by Dodgeball helmer Rawson Marshall Thurber, providing fresh ammo for the “book is always better than the movie” crowd. Art Bechstein (Jon Foster) has just finished college, paid for with laundered money from his mobbed-out old man (Nick Nolte, with a sticky dye job). Planning on a minimum of consequence and responsibility over the last summer before he’s crushed by adulthood, Art’s minimum-wage coasting is upended when he meets a turbulent couple: Jane (Sienna Miller) and her breakneck bisexual boyfriend, Cleveland (Peter Sarsgaard, usually sighing out the last two drags on a cigarette). Devotees of Chabon will find particular points on which to disdain Thurber’s treatment—for the uninitiated, it’s enough to feel the howling gulf between intention and what’s actually on-screen. In lieu of any rapport between performers, Mysteries relies on voiceover readings and an instructively soundtracked montage to articulate relationships, and these flimsy foundations blow away just when they should be a-quiver with the drama of criminal skullduggery and a ménage à trois tangle (the least compelling this side of Threesome). Mena Suvari, as Art’s vindictive ex-fuckbuddy, gives sole signs of life—Miller is so void of presence that one can forget she’s in the movie from scene to scene.