Movie Review - The Seagull (2018)
Annette Bening (The Kids Are All Right and American Beauty) stars as Irina Arkadina, an aging actress in Russia who is well known and is a headliner at the Imperial Theatre in Moscow, but she worries she's getting over the hill, even though she refuses to acknowledge the passage of time on herself. She does fear of being passed over for someone younger, both personally and professionally. As such, she constantly puts others who are younger down, condescends or insults them in subtle ways.
Saoirse Ronan (Lady Bird and Atonement) also stars as Nina Zarechnaya, a young aspiring actress whom is the kind of person that Irina fears. Nina, however, isn't too concerned about acting or the talent of it. She simply wants the fame and the celebrity. Initially, she attaches herself to Irina's son who is himself a burgeoning playwright, but then she comes to see that Irina's son might not be enough to get her to stardom, at least not as fast as she wants to become.
Corey Stoll (Ant-Man and Midnight in Paris) also co-stars as Boris Trigorin, a famous writer who in late 19th century Russia is considered a celebrity. He's been very successful, but he's haunted by the need to keep writing to keep being successful. He feels pursuing that has robbed him of enjoying life as it were. He's also getting older and feeling some of the same things as Irina, but he's not on stage, so he doesn't get the kind of gratification that Irina can get. He feels like maybe he has to get it elsewhere.
Director Michael Mayer who's 57 and from Bethesda, Maryland, is known more for his work for directing Broadway plays and musicals. He won the Tony Award for Spring Awakening. He was also nominated for A View From the Bridge. Given Chekhov's source material, Mayer is able to handle it, juggling the half-dozen or so characters but also properly accentuating each one in lovely and warm ways. Not that it wholly matters but Mayer is gay and when it comes to accentuating particular characters, it's the men who get the loveliest and warmest of touches.
Chekhov's play perhaps stacks the deck in favor of the men. In the cases of Konstantin and Boris, each of those two men have two women potentially in love with them. The one possible exception is Irina but one of the two men in love with her is her son, Konstantin, so it's not quite the same. When it comes to Boris, Mayer's camera is in love with Stoll as it provides close-ups and point-of-view close-ups on a boat that really show the affection for the very handsome man.
The characters are confined to one house. Irina has to make a choice for them to stay or leave, and the film does a good enough job of making that choice somehow life or death. Needless to say, the concept of Chekhov's gun is utilized here. Yet, the film isn't so serious. There is humor. A good chunk of it comes from Masha, played by Elisabeth Moss (The Handmaid's Tale and Mad Men). Masha is a servant who has unrequited love for Konstantin and how she deals with that is quite funny.
Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, a scene of violence, drug use and partial nudity.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 38 mins.
In Select Cities, including Baltimore, DC and Philly.