Movie Review: "Manchester by the Sea"

John Thomas

About as rewarding as staring into an empty cereal box for two hours and seventeen minutes. Because my mind had yet to become engaged with the activities on the screen, after a short time, it began to drift. Oddly enough, the first thing it visualized was a piece of cardboard: gray, flat, lacking in texture, sort-of stiff and very uninteresting.

Clinging to that image, my mind drifted on to what it imagined the director (Kenneth Lonergan) might have revealed to his cast and crew members as they began filming. My mind saw them sitting around a conference table as he offered them his vision for “Manchester by the Sea.”

Passing Casey Affleck (Lee) a piece of cardboard, Lonergan said: “Here Casey, I want you to study this and I want you to act like it, a piece of bland cardboard. Actually, I want you to be a piece of cardboard whenever the camera is pointed in your direction. Michelle Williams (Randi) you get one too, although with all the personal tragedies you constantly show on your face, it won’t be much work for you to be cardboard also.

Those of you in music will have an easy job with the soundtrack, just any background music will do. For authenticity you might add the sounds of a slamming door or an old rumbling boat engine. I think however, to give the film importance we should add some classical music. It doesn’t necessarily matter if it follows the action, but it should be loud. That’ll impress the audience and make the film appear sophisticated.

I’ve chosen the film editor because I understand, that during his studies at film school, he helped pay expenses by working in a Chinese restaurant. He worked in the kitchen chopping vegetables with one of those big square knifes. That’s the kind of editing I want: chop chop chop. No messing around, just chop chop chop from one scene to the next, chop chop chop.

The cinematographer’s job should also be simple. Just go to some drug stores in Massachusetts someplace, look for a rack of tourist post cards and buy a few. You can use these as background ideas for the exterior scenes. Actually, if there isn’t a real New England sky you’d like in the scene your filming, just have one of the post card pictures added to the background. It’ll look okay on a big screen - no one will notice the difference.

We’ve all heard the accent prevalent in the New England area, especially Massachusetts. We’re not expecting any of you to sound like you’re from there, but once in a while, use a long, hard, nasal A sound when the word you’re speaking has an A in it. That should be enough to add a touch of authenticity to the overall picture, otherwise just speak normally. The screen writers have already been alerted that there is no need for sophisticated dialogue, the characters live existences just above that of the homeless.

To show what skilled actors you are, we’ve added lots of profanity, shouting, screaming, yelling and a two fight scenes, but when those scenes are over, it’s back to cardboard.

This overall story is actually quite good and could be told with more feeling and empathy, but I want to make this movie edgy-gritty. We also need to remember this film is a Christmas release and soon after, it will be the awards season. I want this movie to be at the top of the contenders list. We can do that if we all keep together on this cardboard idea.

My vision is gold. Let’s turn this cardboard into gold.



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