Mysteries of Pittsburgh

| December 4, 2009

Mysteries of Pittsburgh, recently released on DVD, stars Jon Foster as Art Bechstein, the begrudging son of a gangster, who, despite his education and reputation, takes a middle-class job and yearns to find himself. Also starring Peter Sarsgaard (Garden State, Jarhead) and Sienna Miller (GI Joe: Rise of the Cobra), the film stumbbles through your classic indie genre clichés: sexuality, drugs and running away.
The only mystery after watching the movie was why it ever put it into production. It seems so many films in this genre are being written from the wrong jumping off point. I couldn’t find a strong theme or poignant moment and I can only hope that the book for which this was adapted from was brutally slain by Writer/Director Rawson Marshall Thurber (Dodgeball). I admit I have not read the book, however, but I probably won’t after seeing this adaptation.
The film is littered with moments that are awkward and ironic or clever, but they aren’t pieced together well enough to support the story. Sarsgaard plays Cleveland Arning, who is a two bit criminal in a love/hate relationship (mostly hate) with Jane Bellwether, played by Miller. Cleveland becomes some sort of manipulative, alcoholic Sherpa, guiding Art through efforts to shed his past and the reputation handing down by his gangster father. All the while, Art falls for Jane, which then turns the movie into a mess of broken relationships and terrible plans.
Sarsgaard may be the single bright star of the film, playing a reasonably deep role that is genuine and unforgiving. His arc is strong and quickly steals whatever spotlight exists. Saarsgaard could slowly become the next Steve Buscemi as he continually chooses quirky roles with forgetful names. Where he leaves the path of wonderful supporting actors his in his efforts to create thoughtfully dramatic roles and to choose films that move him.
As for the DVD itself, the special features were standard and did put in place the foundation for the production of the movie, but if you watch the interviews and other features you wonder why the thoughts and motivations didn’t come through in the film. There are some worth watching moments spent behind-the-scenes during production, however.
Mysteries of Pittsburgh provides the strange world of indie drama, and maybe a few of the awkwardly funny moments as well, but never gets you to a conclusion about your life or any other.

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