Note: This is the second part of a review double-header! Jesse sent two recommendations in a single shot so I’m reviewing them at the same time. Click here for the other review.
What Jesse said:
Two movies for you to watch: War Dogs, and Manchester by the Sea. Very different but excellent flicks. War Dogs is so absurd it will make you laugh and then wonder if the grownups really are in charge… also, it was funny ’cause it’s true (based on a real case). Manchester by the Sea was a pretty intense slow burn. Casey Affleck plays the main character. Watch out for the BAHS-ton accents. Family drama.
“If you’re going to freak out every time you see a frozen chicken, I think we should maybe go to the hospital. I don’t know anything about this.“
Judging by this quote alone, I should like Manchester by the Sea. Add the fact that it is packed full of awkwardness and I should really like it. Awkward people just trying to exist in a world where all the little things are much harder than they should be; this is my favourite kind of movie by far. But let’s get things straight right up front: I did not like Manchester by the Sea and I am struggling for a reason not to give it 0/10.
Right from the beginning I was aggravated. The dialog starts before the opening credits music has faded and it was annoyingly difficult to hear what seemed like an expository exchange. It was a relief when the music finally stopped – little did I know that all the music in this film would be annoying, out of place, too loud or unnecessary. It was never appropriate to the scene, nor even ironically inappropriate – it was just all wrong. Music usage is a crucial aspect of film and when not done correctly it can be devastating even to an otherwise fantastic movie.
Of course, this is not an otherwise fantastic movie. Affleck is annoying before you even see his face. To be fair, he did start to grow on me by the end, but I’m pretty sure that had more to do with the rest of the characters. At first I wondered why his character would be so anti-social, but then it became clear; he has the most immediately unlikable family and friends imaginable. I can’t think of another film with so many genuinely unlikable characters. None of them are relate-able as people. A good awkward movie is good because the awkwardness is familiar and understandable. But all of the characters in this film are unpleasant – and they are definitely not helped by the awful fake accents that just make the dialog that much more painful to hear.
Thirty minutes in I wanted to stop watching. By an hour in I had checked the time remaining half a dozen times, and I really wanted to stop watching. By and hour and forty-five minutes in I wasn’t sure that I’d be able to take anymore. And then, inexplicably, it just ends abruptly without any resolution. Normally that would impress me, but this time it felt cheap; I had earned something more involved.
Maybe I’m out of practice. Maybe this is what passes for awkwardness in film these days. In my day, we had people like Mark Duplass to show how awkwardness can be reveled in. I’d like to see him redo this film shot-for-shot with a better cast. The only actor that should stay in the Duplass version is Matthew Broderick. Yes, that’s right, Matthew Broderick is the single best part of Manchester by the Sea. In fact, for his part I will give the film a whole extra point.