Never has a film screamed out so blatantly “Give me an Oscar!” Carrying an air of self-importance while wearing the “important film” banner, the filmmakers were undoubtedly wondering why the Oscar ceremony itself is necessary—why not just award the film outright? “The Shipping News” is one of the many by-the-numbers that has blocked up the Miramax conveyor belt of so-called important “independent films” made by artisans. With the award-winning cast and two-time award nominee Lasse Halstrom at the helm, you know that ol’ Harvey was shocked when this film ended up with nary a nomination (you think that any studio that can get Lasse’s “Chocolat,” the art house version of “Footloose,” nominated had this whole Oscar thing down-pat).
We’re introduced to Quoyle, played by Kevin Spacey in schlep mode. This guy has nothing going for him. His wife sleeps around, his job sucks and his world is shot in all gray tones. What this man needs, and gets, is a feisty Judi Dench to grab him by the proverbial balls and show him all about life. Going back to his roots with daughter in tow, Quoyle moves to Newfoundland and the quest begins, and begins and begins…well maybe it doesn’t.
What we’re left with are a series of scenes that wear their emotions on their celluloid sleeves, but really add up to very little substance and we get two hours of nothing. Sure, it’s beautifully shot nothing, but a travelogue with a bunch of Oscar winners does not necessarily make for a good movie.