Mysteries of Pittsburgh is quite the fitting title because this film does nothing but produce mysteries. Unlike an Encyclopedia Brown book, there are no answers to turn to in the end.
  • Feature
  • Picture
  • Sound
  • Extras
  • Replay Value
Michael Chabon turns up for a noteworthy extra.
The movie itself is messy making this DVD a no-go.
Every once and a while a movie is released about that "one" crazy summer. Despite the fact that my summers as a youth were never so eventful, I used to relate to these movies. Perhaps it was the fantasy of actually having an unrealistically wild summer. In American Pie 2, the gang of college misfits enjoy a summer of sex and shenanigans while staying at a lake house. In the 80's comedy One Crazy Summer, John Cusack literally has one crazy summer! These were the types of movies that made me anticipate the upcoming vacation time despite the fact that I knew deep down inside it would be spent working a dull summer job. There is a place in my heart for movies that depict memorable summers from the perspective of young, male youth. Unfortunately, I cannot say there is a place in my heart for the indie Mysteries of Pittsburgh, a coming-of-age drama that takes the "wild summer" subgenre and subverts to the point of ruining it.

Jon Foster (the not-as-talented sibling of Ben Foster) stars as spoiled college graduate Art. His father (Nick Nolte) is a wealthy gangster and has arranged for him to take a lucrative stockbroker job away from home. Art sees this summer in Pittsburgh as the ideal time to work a mind-numbing job and to seek crazy adventures wherever they may present themselves. His outlet presents itself to him in the form of Jane (Sienna Miller), a beautiful blonde hitting golf balls at a kegger. Art escorts her to a pie shop and engages in a long night of conversation despite knowing she has a crazy boyfriend named Cleveland (Peter Sarsgaard). Then one day Cleveland seeks out Art, not to beat him up in jealousy, but to extend an invitation to become the third point in a triangle with him and Jane. The three of them experience laughter, heartbreak, and sex together. Ah yes, how about those crazy summers?

Mysteries of Pittsburgh is based on a novel by critically acclaimed author Michael Chabon (Wonder Boys). I never did read the book, but I can only assume that the plot and characters of the original work had more depth than these odd specimens. In fact I wouldn't mind reading the novel to see if I can better understand why young Art takes it upon himself to team up with this couple. Sienna Miller is an attractive girl, but I kept wondering why a hormonally charged post-college boy would continue to pine after her when she is attached to a boyfriend. To make things more interesting, the college boy befriends the boyfriend. And just to add icing on the cake, the college boy has sex with each of them in separate sessions. The whole time he loves the girl and doesn't want her to go yet still has this indescribable attachment to the boyfriend.

What it comes down to is that Mysteries of Pittsburgh is a mess. Art is infatuated with both Cleveland and Jane, but I never understood why. I can buy a well-crafted story about a sexually confused twentysomething, but none of these characters are ever put under a magnifying glass so that we as an audience can comprehend their appealing traits. I expected to understand why someone such as Art would waste a summer on these two, and the answer never came to me. The sexual adventures further give way to a life-threatening dilemna in which Art is forced to involve his father for the sake of saving Cleveland's life. Once again this brings up the question, "Why?". Why is this character worth it? Did the screenwriters completely omit the section of the novel in which Art discovers why he loves his man enough to do this during his careless, drunken summer? Mysteries of Pittsburgh is quite the fitting title because this film does nothing but produce mysteries. Unlike an Encyclopedia Brown book, there are no answers to turn to in the end.
There are a couple of featurettes on the DVD. The first is a "making of" piece that offers no real insight or guidance. It is essentially a 5-minute reel of behind-the-scenes footage. There is another extra with a little more meat to it in which the director Rawson Marshall Thurber (Dodgeball) and the actors explain their passion for the source material by Michael Chabon. If anything this is a nice extra because it pays tribute to the book that is presumably far superior to this adaptation. Chabon himself even contributes to the piece.
Widescreen. Director Thurber makes a break from zany comedy and creates a visually impressive film.
Surround Sound. The trippy score by Theodore Shapiro gives the film a feeling of inviting ecstasy that is not matched by the sloppy storytelling.
The film comes in a standard case. The three primary players are pictured on the front cover.
Mysteries of Pittsburgh has some promising appeal with star Peter Sarsgaard and Michael Chabon's name attached. However, this movie simply doesn't deliver. As I previously mentioned, perhaps the source material is stronger and the film is sloppily translated from page to screen. The movie does not fail in presenting its shocking plot points, but the characters are never fleshed out enough to understand exactly why these points are even necessary. This is not a movie I could recommend to a fellow film lover.

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