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“The Seagull” finally sees the light of day

Every so often, it’s nice to see a film that’s been on the shelf for years finally come out and actually get solid reviews. Usually, that’s the mark of a terrible flick. Here, in the case of The Seagull, we have a much happier outcome. Initially earmarked to come out a few years ago, it finally played at the recent Tribeca Film Festival, before heading into release this week. Too often, films of this ilk end up like Tulip Fever, finally released to outright pans. The Seagull, while not likely to end up being championed like Margaret, which took nearly a decade to come out but was feted upon release, still is the rare delayed title to clearly not have been shelved because of quality.

The movie is an adaptation of the classic Anton Chekhov play. Here’s the synopsis from IMDb, in case you’re unfamiliar with the source material: “An aging actress named Irina Arkadina pays summer visits to her brother Pjotr Nikolayevich Sorin and her son Konstantin on a country estate. On one occasion, she brings Trigorin, a successful novelist, with her. Nina, a free and innocent girl on a neighboring estate, falls in love with Boris Trigorin. As Trigorin lightly consumes and rejects Nina, so the actress all her life has consumed and rejected her son, who loves Nina. The victims are destroyed while the sophisticates continue on their way.” Annette Bening plays Irina, while Saoirse Ronan portrays Nina, both of whom do very strong work (more on that in a bit). Michael Mayer directs a script from Stephen Karam, while supporting players here include Brian Dennehy, Elisabeth Moss, Corey Stoll, Mare Winningham, and Keven Zegen. Cinematography by Matthew J. Lloyd helps open up the stage trappings, while the score comes from the duo of Nico Muhly and Anton Sanko.

A pair of performances anchor this film, though the cast on the whole is quite good. Best in show is Bening, who, as you’ll see later on, has rarely been better. She dives into the part of Irina with full force, doing something new with a classic role. Ronan also gives it her all, turning in work a little bit different than the amazing recent run that she’s been on. They’re the two acting turns you notice most, but Moss and Stoll are no slouches either. This is the rare play adaptation that is able to cast off its stage shackles. What works there doesn’t always work on film, but The Seagull manages to make it effectively open.

As promised, here are Bening’s ten best performances so far

10. Ruby Sparks
9. Being Julia
8. The Siege
7. The Seagull
6. The Grifters
5. Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool
4. The Kids Are All Right
3. 20th Century Women
2. The American President
1. American Beauty

Also, while we’re at it, here are Ronan’s ten best turns to date:

10. Violet & Daisy
9. The Seagull
8. Byzantium
7. The Lovely Bones
6. Lost River
5. The Grand Budapest Hotel
4. Hanna
3. Atonement
2. Brooklyn
1. Lady Bird

Tomorrow, audiences can finally see what’s been hidden from them for a surprisingly long time when The Seagull comes out. The movie works better than you’d expect too. Fans of Chekhov, or especially this play (plus, you know, Bening or Ronan lovers too), should be fond of the end result. After creating some positive buzz a few weeks ago at Tribeca, it heads into theaters already achieving a second life of sorts. Avengers: Infinity War will dominate for another week before Deadpool 2 takes over the blockbuster mantle (before ceding quickly to Solo: A Star Wars Story), but this is effective counter programming. Give it a shot and see what you think…

Be sure to check out The Seagull, opening in theaters this weekend!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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