Sunday, September 3, 2017

Alexander Janko's YEAR BY THE SEA -- adapted from the popular Joan Anderson memoir -- finally gets a NY/L.A. theatrical release

YEAR BY THE SEA is not the worst film I've seen this year. But given its provenance -- a NY Times best-selling memoir by Joan Anderson and a particularly starry, talented cast -- it is certainly the most disappointing. In fact, it opened down here in Southern Florida around six months ago, and at that time, I decided, rather than trash it, to simply let it die its quiet but necessary death. But now that it is opening in New York, Los Angeles and elsewhere, it seems to me that a warning is in order for audiences that may be suckered in by that provenance.

Having not read the original memoir, TrustMovies can't vouch for the book's quality, but it surely must have been better than what's evolved onto the screen. As adapted and directed by Alexander Janko (shown at right: this is his first effort in both departments), the movie is one of those "telescoped," feel-good schlock-fests that will insult the intelligence of any audience with standards higher than very low mainstream. Most galling is the fact that the film probably imagines that it is "feminist"and progressive, simply because its heroine (along with most of the other characters) gets everything that she wants without letting us know about the hard work and painful setbacks that would of course accompany so much of this.

It's just all too easy. And when I say "all," I mean everything -- from curing an unfeeling, recalcitrant husband to finding gainful employment, solving the problem of a friend's physically abusive boyfriend, and yes, death and dying. Gheesh. If only. I found this movie, in its own special way, insulting, while my spouse likened it, as he sometimes does, to a kind of pornography: not of the sexual sort but regarding life itself in the manner that movies so often cheapen by making it all seem so easy and labor-free. If you want something badly enough, well, hey, you can just make it happen.

The subject here is -- according to the tag line on the poster, top -- "It's never too late to reclaim your life." And, as we see unveil before us, this reclaiming is all so much fun and easily done that, gosh, we can't imagine why everyone doesn't manage it. (Also, by the way, it does help a lot if you've got enough money to begin with.) So our heroine, a woman who has lived in the shadow of her uncaring hubby for far too long, decides to "reclaim."

In the talented cast are actors as good as Karen Allen (above, right, as that put-upon wife) and Michael Cristofer (above, left, as her entitled, unsympathetic husband). Both do the best they can with material that's sadly second-rate.

The real shock here comes in seeing actors as fine as S. Epatha Merkerson (above, center) and Celia Imrie (below) utterly wasted in roles that require them to do and be so little that their fans will probably wince. Ms Imrie -- very good in countless British films and television shows -- plays a character that is clearly meant to be wise and helpful but instead comes off like some nitwit Obi-wan Kenobi (dressed in super-bright colors). She has either been directed into poor choices or, absent that, simply flails and fails.

But, hey, the movie, with its seaside location, is very pretty to look at, while its paint-by-numbers style and content will be plenty easy to follow. So for those who demand happy endings, good feelings and great results with little labor, here is the movie for you.

Year By the Sea, running 114 minutes, opens this coming Friday in New York City at the Lincoln Plaza Cinema and the Landmark Sunshine Cinema, and the following Friday, September 15, in Los Angeles at Laemmle's Royal Town Center and Playhouse 7. Elsewhere? Click here to view all upcoming playdates, cities and theaters around the country.

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