Revivals and fresh cinematic adaptations of beloved plays shouldn’t require much justification, but in the case of the new take on Anton Chekhov’s The Seagull, the reason for its existence is constantly in question.
With gorgeous Hudson River Valley sights as its backdrop, the version by Tony-winning director turned filmmaker Michael Mayer (A Home at the End of the World; Flicka) is marred by overly choppy storytelling that discourages flow and character investment.
The performances by the impressive cast aren’t bad, but they’re not given room to develop beyond commercial-length segments and upwards of two traits are revealed about a select few of these country estate vacationers and workers, none of whom seem to have experienced happiness in their lives.
Among the more fleshed-out pawns, matriarch actress Irina (Annette Bening) is an intolerable egomaniac, her aspiring playwright son Konstantin (Billy Howle, The Sense of an Ending) is moody and lovesick, his writer idol Boris (Corey Stoll) is observant and has a wandering eye and budding actress Nina (Saoirse Ronan) is a bit of a gold digger.
The hastily-sketched extended supporting cast of family, estate employees and guests played by Elisabeth Moss, Brian Dennehy, Mare Winningham, Michael Zegen (Amazon’s The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel) and Glenn Fleshler (Showtime’s Billions) barely advance the disjointed plot, while the film’s flashback structure yields repeat scenes in the final act that feel as dry as their first iterations.
In various permutations, the cast produce occasional dramatic sparks — Bening is the clear common denominator — but mostly they inspire a desire to see them perform the material on stage in a traditional staging where it has the potential to breathe and elicit reactions besides boredom.
Grade: C-minus. Rated PG-13. Starts July 6 at Grail Moviehouse
(Photo: Sony Pictures Classics)