What are “The Mysteries of Pittsburgh?”

Indie coming-of-age drama has big names but small characters

We're not sure why anyone would cheat on Sienna Miller, but Peter Sarsgaard's Cleveland does, and clearly it gets ugly. PHOTO COURTESY ARCHLIGHT FILMS

Ashley Goetz

We’re not sure why anyone would cheat on Sienna Miller, but Peter Sarsgaard’s Cleveland does, and clearly it gets ugly. PHOTO COURTESY ARCHLIGHT FILMS

âÄúThe Mysteries of PittsburghâÄù Rated: R STARRING: Jon Foster, Sienna Miller, Peter Sarsgaard SHOWING: Lagoon Cinema, April 10 The only way a viewer would be able to tell that âÄúThe Mysteries of PittsburghâÄù is set in 1983 is from a quick, blink-and-youâÄôll-miss-it glimpse of a Visa card, its logo a forefather to the one we know today. Otherwise, the movie looks as modern as can be, from its Iron & Wine-heavy soundtrack to the too-flattering costumes worn by its lead actress Sienna Miller. This vaguely defined time period is only one of the puzzling problems with the 92-minute drama. âÄúThe Mysteries of PittsburghâÄù was adapted from the book by celebrated author Michael Chabon (âÄúThe Amazing Aventures of Kavalier & Clay,âÄù âÄúWonder BoysâÄù) a prototypical coming-of-age story centering on recent college graduate Art (Jon Foster, 22, who looks like a mix of John Krasinski and Justin Long), who has decided to spend his final summer of freedom in the most inane way possible: working a dead-end job at a discount bookstore, the kind with disinterested clerks and flickering fluorescent lighting. He does this to spite his gangster father (Nick Nolte) and starts a relationship of sorts with his boss, Phlox (Mena Suvari) before a chance encounter with the two free spirits who will, predictably, change his life. Jane, played with a hint of a southern accent by the British Sienna Miller, is a beautiful borderline alcoholic who instantly captivates Art, and the always solid Peter Sarsgaard is her volatile and enigmatic boyfriend Cleveland. Art becomes a pivotal part of their lives, falling in love with their freewheeling lifestyle. Have you seen this movie before? Basically. The problem with âÄúThe Mysteries of PittsburghâÄù is its formulaic approach to the coming-of-age film. ThatâÄôs not to say that itâÄôs all bad, though; in fact, itâÄôs vaguely likeable despite its mediocrity. It has all the makings of a good movie; the actors, especially the charming scoundrel Sarsgaard and the nuanced weight of gangster dad Nick Nolte , all give pleasing performances with what theyâÄôre given. Foster is believably young and carries the film with gravitas. The film was a 10-year labor of love for its creative team, stemming from a passion for ChabonâÄôs novel. Director Rawson Marshall Thurber (âÄúDodgeballâÄù) compared it to âÄúThe Great Gatsby,âÄù calling it âÄúa classic American story.âÄù However, like âÄúGatsbyâÄù before it, âÄúThe Mysteries of PittsburghâÄù is a book that may well be best left off-screen. The story is shot in a believably beautiful way by director Thurber as perceptions of Pittsburgh as an ugly steel city are countered by the settingâÄôs lush landscapes and dimly lit diners. However, âÄúThe Mysteries of PittsburghâÄù falls short of impressive. Perhaps itâÄôs the vagueness of the storyline; thereâÄôs no depth beneath the surface and nothing sets it apart from the legions of counterparts, from âÄúThe GraduateâÄù to âÄúGarden State.âÄù The audience never gets a full feeling of who the characters actually are. Perhaps with a longer time duration a more fully realized film could have emerged. 2.5 of 5 stars