Quantcast
become a Patreon patron

film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

As I Lay Dying review (London Film Festival)

As I Lay Dying red light Jim Parrack James Franco

If this isn’t a deliberate parody of furiously solemn, self-conscious artistic pretension, it’s an accidental one.
I’m “biast” (pro): I’m a big fan of James Franco in most of his incarnations

I’m “biast” (con): nothing

I have not read the source material

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

Remember a few years ago when James Franco turned a guest-starring stint on the daytime soap General Hospital into a multimedia art project? I’m absolutely convinced he’s up to the same thing again here. Because if this isn’t a deliberate parody of furiously solemn, self-conscious artistic pretension, it’s an accidental one, and I suspect that Franco (This Is the End) — screenwriter and director here — is better than that. Working from the legendary stream-of-consciousness novel by William Faulkner, Franco earnestly deploys two arty, obfuscating cinematic ruses: an abundant use of split screens that apparently allowed him to use up every take from every angle he shot; and permitting his actors (including himself) to affect impenetrable Depression-era backcountry Mississippi accents while mumbling their dialogue. If it’s all offered ironically, perhaps it’s intended to send up overweening directorial ambition and suggest that this tale — of the poor Bundren family making a long journey by horse-drawn cart to bury their recently deceased matriarch in a town many miles away, and told via multiple internal perspectives of family members who do not communicate much with one another — is uniquely unsuited to filmic adaptation. If it’s all offered unironically… well, the upshot is the same. But I figure that by casting his Your Highness buddy Danny McBride in a small part here, Franco isn’t even trying to hide how hard he’s pulling out collective leg, and is now eagerly gathering the head-scratchings of film critics attempting to unravel his work here, which will surely soon be assembled into Phase 2 of this project, probably to be entitled As I Lay Laughing.

viewed during the 57th BFI London Film Festival


As I Lay Dying, by William Faulkner [Amazon U.S.] [Amazon Canada] [Amazon U.K.]


When you purchase or rent almost anything from Amazon US, Amazon Canada, Amazon UK, and iTunes (globally), you help support my work at Flick Filosopher. Please use my links when you’re shopping at either service. Thank you!

As I Lay Dying (2013)
US/Can release: Oct 11 2013

MPAA: rated R for disturbing images, some sexual content and brief nudity
BBFC: not rated

viewed in 2D
viewed at a private screening with an audience of critics

official site | IMDb
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

If you’re tempted to post a comment that resembles anything on the film review comment bingo card, please reconsider.

Share via
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap