Movie review: Great cast grounded in dull 'Seagull'
Saoirse Ronan, Annette Bening, Elisabeth Moss and Corey Stoll can't bring this Anton Chekov adaptation to life
Unrequited love and the damage it wreaks is at the center of "The Seagull," a stately-but-ultimately-dull drama adapted from Anton Chekov's late 19th-century play.
A summertime lake house is the backdrop for a doomed group's affairs of the heart. Irina (Annette Bening) is a theater diva in love with her famous younger writer boyfriend, Boris (Corey Stoll), but he's got eyes for Nina (the always great Saoirse Ronan who's, duh, great again here), a local who dreams of leaving her small life behind.
Nina is enamored with Boris and his celebrity, much to the chagrin of Irina's son, a tortured playwright by the name of Konstantin (Billy Howle). Konstantin will kill himself to get the attention of Nina, and he nearly does (Howle and Ronan also played ill-fated lovers in last month's "On Chesil Beach"), but he isn't interested in the advances of the disdainful Masha (Elisabeth Moss), who herself is dodging schoolteacher Mikhail (Michael Zegen).
Summer lovin', am I right? Issues of jealousy and heartache abound, especially between Nina, Boris and Konstantin. (Konstantin takes his frustrations out on a seagull which he leaves for Nina and Boris to find, hence the story's title.)
There are some strong performances in the mix, especially from Ronan and Stoll, whose scenes together walk an emotional tightrope. But director Michael Mayer ("Flicka") brings a labored hand to the proceedings and can't maximize his dynamite cast or the potential for salaciousness in Chekov's tangled web of characters. TV soaps routinely draw more from less, but "The Seagull" can't work up any suds.
Rated PG-13 for some mature thematic elements, a scene of violence, drug use, and partial nudity
Running time: 98 minutes