Review: "The Seagull" 
Thursday, May 10, 2018 at 6:08PM
JA in Annette Bening, Corey Stoll, Elisabeth Moss, Saoirse Ronan, The Seagull, Tribeca

by Jason Adams

Nina (Saoirse Ronan) is sweetly exasperated by Konstantin (Billy Howle), whose avant-garde play she has just acted (and flopped) in for a small crowd of friends and relations. "Nothing happens in your play," she says. "It's all people talking. You ought to add a love story."

Anton Chekov, who wrote the maybe-you've-heard-of-it 1895 play The Seagull upon which this movie is based, was of course making a joke at his own expense --The Seagull is really nothing but talk and love stories. Half a dozen love stories are all twisted up, a gordian knot of romantic entanglements...

Masha loves Konstantin loves Nina loves Boris and on, looping back and in between again. The trick is that none of them connect into anything approaching a satisfactory conclusion. There's nothing but compromise, abandonment, and pain. Chekov is a magician endlessly pulling his scarves from the hat, until the last one slips looped around the throat of innocence itself. A mislaid bird dead on a dock.

Dark stuff but also very very funny, in that mordant vodka-soaked Russian way. Director Michael Mayer really nails the humor in this version, aided by witty performances from his ace cast who all came to play. Elizabeth Moss offers up a sloshed little master-class of frayed nerves as Masha. The dramatic turns of the last act are well-handled too - when you've got Saoirse and Annette Bening digging into this stuff you know you're in more than capable hands; there's a late-stage close-up of Annette that'll restart any actress-loving heart all the way from the dead.

But does the movie work? Not entirely.

The Seagull is such a product of the stage I don't know that it can work as a film. If The Seagull is about anything it's about The Theater. It is about the very act of sitting in a physical space with these actors as these characters, splitting an axe down the center of person to person story-telling and cracking open its wooden heart, the floor-boards themselves shattering into little splinters, sending them off shooting down everybody's veins, one after another. You should feel the heat of Chekov's Gun on your face when it goes off. The smoke should physically clog your nostrils. Mayer's camera roves and spins around, looking and straining for the cinematic equivalent of that sensation, but never finds it. Still The Seagull's heart does beat hard.

The Seagull opens Friday May 11th in limited release

Article originally appeared on The Film Experience (
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