The Mysteries of Pittsburgh

The Mysteries of Pittsburgh movie poster
MPAA rating: R
Genre: Comedy, Action/Adventure, Drama
A recent college graduate experiences a defining summer by angering his gangster father and exploring love, sexuality and the enigmas of life in a big city.
Starring: Sienna Miller, Mena Suvari, Peter Sarsgaard, Nick Nolte
Director: Rawson Marshall Thurber
Running time: 1:35
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Editorial Review

Oh, to be a character in literature, especially modern literature, especially modern coming-of-age literature, in which everyone is young, careless and floating through a golden summer of bohemian adventure and deep, resonant sex, only to part on tremulous-but-grateful terms to face the autumn, i.e. adulthood. Based on Michael Chabon's 1988 novel of the same name, "The Mysteries of Pittsburgh" contains one such golden summer. June to August is packed with day-drinking, sunbathing and sloppy, ambiguous emotion shared between 20-somethings played by Sienna Miller, Peter Sarsgaard and Jon Foster.

Come September, there must be a reckoning. There is a reckoning in "The Mysteries of Pittsburgh," but it doesn't feel natural or revelatory or earned.

This pleasant-to-watch, easily forgotten drama was filmed in 2006, debuted at the Sundance Film Festival more than a year ago and has finally found its way to local screens. Foster (heretofore unknown to this reviewer) plays a young man who decides to zone out during the summer of '83 before he assumes a high-power corporate job. Through the magic of the aforementioned coming-of-age storytelling, he meets and befriends two free spirits, played by the vibrant Miller and the eternally droopy-eyed Sarsgaard, and his summer veers from vegetating toward an awakening as the three fall in love with one another.

It's like Bertolucci's "The Dreamers" or Truffaut's "Jules et Jim": Two guys and a gal surrender to love and lust and envy, and then grow up. "The Mysteries of Pittsburgh," though, seems to be missing an essential element of drama, of risk, underneath its glossy, golden sheen. Yes, there is death and disownment, but both feel like routine parts of an artificial genre instead of devastating blows in an evolving story.

-- Dan Zak (April 17, 2009)

Contains strong sexuality, nudity and language.