When Addie (Beth Grant), the family matriarch dies, her husband Anse (Tim Blake Nelson) vows to keep his promise to her and return her to Jefferson City for burial, something that will require a few days travel. The family packs up and takes off. Anse believes that God will find a way for them to complete their task. As it turns out, it was the worse possible decision.
The film, like the book utilizes excessive narration. It was annoying as was the split screen effect. The split screen was overdone. It was used to show the two angles of the same event; two simultaneous events; the same event past and present; an event with narration; plus dead people talking. Faulkner captures the struggles of uneducated folk during the Great Depression, almost in a Monty Pythonesque dark comedy fashion. Tim Blake Nelson gave us an Oscar worthy performance in a sea of great performances. Not since "Winter Bone" have I witnessed such great country portrayals.
This was a difficult film to stay the course. I almost ejected the disc on two occasions. However, to say I didn't like it, wouldn't be correct either. I think the adaptation stayed too close to the annoying features book. A more creative screen play, "inspired" by the book might have made a better film. Anse has no teeth, chews tobacco, is uneducated, and speaks with a thick accent. About 10 minutes into the film I turned on the English subscripts.
This film is not for everyone. I can't imagine watching it again.
Parental Guide: No f-bombs. Sex. Brief male nudity.
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34 of 36 people found the following review helpful
Valiant attempt at clarifying an opaque bookOct. 22 2013
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James Franco has made a valiant attempt at clarifying an opaque novel. However, there is a reason this story has not been adapted to film in the past: Faulkner's South belongs in print.
The movie tries a little too hard, over-utilizing split screen shots to convey the novel's multiple narrator roles. It made me feel like I was watching an olde-tymey version of 24. The extreme close-up monologues were intense and haunting, staying true to the Faulkner's voice, if not adding clarity to the storyline. The film is beautifully shot and well-acted, but felt as much like homework as my initial high school reading of this book (I enjoyed the re-read much more when I was all growsed up).
Overall, "As I Lay Dying" is a solid (if slightly off-the-mark) homage to a great literary work.
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Pleasantly surprisedNov. 19 2013
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Let me preface this review by stating that I have never read Faulkner's novel. I also am not the biggest James Franco fan. However, I do love classic novels and 127 Hours is a favorite of mine so it wasn't a stretch for me to give up two hours of my time to give the movie a chance. I imagine this movie will only attract fans who for the most part know what they are getting themselves into so keeping that in mind, this movie is not for everyone. If you are sitting around on a Saturday night and your wife says, "Ooh this looks interesting. I love James Franco," you are better off passing. If however you are of the "indie" film ilk and/or an avid reader of famous novels you should consider lending this movie your time. Franco does well as director of the film and the acting is top notch. The plot of the movie is just short of tragic and certainly not uplifting so don't expect any sunshine. All of Faulkner's characters are flawed and everyone in the film loses more than just their mother "Addie." The movie begins with the matriarch of the family passing and continues with the family embarking on an oddesy to bury her. The movie can be a little slow and overly artistic, but it is not enough to condemn Franco's direction. My only complaint is that Franco employs too many split-screen shots ala Danny Boyle (the director of 127 hours). All in all I enjoyed the film enough to recommend it to anyone willing to give it a shot.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Much better than I expectedJan. 7 2014
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I'm not going to waste everyone's time debating whether or not this film should have been made. It's been made.
First of all, this was so much better than I expected. On paper, some of the casting decisions look atrocious, but no one turns in a bad performance. Franco, as Darl, is (unsurprisingly) unable to explore Darl's mind the way Faulkner did in the original novel, and much of the "who" and the "why" of the character is left for the viewer to interpret. Of course, the novel itself relied heavily on the interpretation of the reader, so I'm not going to be too hard on Franco for that. As for the actors that looked terrible on paper...well, for me, they were Danny McBride as Vernon Tull and Logan Marshall-Green as Jewel. The latter, I have to say, BLEW ME AWAY. I can honestly say he stole the show for me. In the novel, my favorite character was always Darl, but Marshall-Green's performance had me focusing more on Jewel throughout the course of the film. Interestingly, Franco frames Jewel like a saint in some of the film's more beautiful camerawork, leading me to wonder whether the director saw Jewel as more of a protagonist than I did. Now, to McBride. What, you say? Danny McBride in a role like this? Favoritism on Franco's part, perhaps? These were the things I thought before seeing the film. Fortunately, it doesn't matter either way, because Vernon Tull's character is significantly downplayed in the film, and his wife Cora is cut out almost entirely. Still, McBride doesn't do anything he shouldn't, and while I still can't say I understand the casting, there isn't really enough for his character to do for me to judge his performance. Also, Tim Blake Nelson. If you only see this film for one reason, let it be Tim Blake Nelson. His immersion into the character of Anse, patriarch of the Bundren family is complete; he manages to walk that rare line where if he'd have hammed it up a bit more, it would have been caricature, and if he'd have downplayed it just a tad, the character would have been ineffectual. As he is, Nelson nails the character. His accent, hampered by the character's abominable dentistry, is suitably garbled, and the truth of his words suitably ambiguous. For the sake of completion, Ahna O'Reilly, Jim Parrack, and Brady Permenter were spot-on as Dewey Dell, Cash, and the intriguing Vardaman, respectively, but seriously. Tim Blake Nelson.
Now, on to the film itself. Franco attempts to bring Faulkner's kaleidoscopic narrative to film with the use of split screens, and I can't say I can think of a better way. However, his use of this technique varies from inspired to meaningless to confused. The chief issue I had was when two versions of the same event were presented side by side (a fantastic idea) but one of them was quite obviously not from anyone's point of view. I would have appreciated seeing these scenes through the eyes of two different characters, but instead I get X's view, and then another extraneous camera angle. It's like watching a deleted scene (I can almost hear Franco saying, "We COULD have shot it this way...). At other times, though, the technique works brilliantly, as when we see Dewey Dell hearing Darl's words, yet we see that Darl's lips are not moving. Is Darl actually saying anything? Is Dewey Dell reading his body language? Or could they have a telepathic connection? This is the kind of scene that justifies bringing the book to film.
Many will be pleased that the story survives in pretty much its complete form. In many cases the characters are speaking right out the book. Speaking of which, I'm sure you've noticed how hearing dialogue straight from a book can sound very fake and affected? Surprisingly, I didn't feel that way while watching this one. The actors become their characters to such an extent that words belong to the characters, not to Faulkner and his novel. Unfortunately, towards the end, the story becomes incredibly confusing to anyone who hasn't read the book. This is mostly due to Franco's inability to show what's going on in Darl's head. In the book, there is enough there for readers to form all sorts of interpretations about what happens. In the film, Franco hasn't given us enough of Darl to allow for complete understanding of the event itself, let alone interpretations as to the motivations behind it.
Overall, I was very pleased that the film was not atrocious (which I was expecting) and overjoyed that it turned out to be a very good film. While it may not accomplish anything that the book did not, it gives the characters a face. Tim Blake Nelson turns in an outstanding performance as Anse Bundren, Logan Marshall-Green is just as good as Jewel, and we even get a surprisingly nuanced sequence pertaining to Vardaman that lends the film a sense of sympathy the book did not possess. All in all, it is certainly a worthwhile experience. Here's the but: read the book first. Not only because the book is always better (in this case, it's one of the greatest literary achievements of all time), but because knowledge of the book is necessary for an understanding of the ending, and for a deeper understanding of the characters and story as a whole (Darl especially). See it, people! Complaining about the vile, satanic Franco and his unending blasphemous attacks on the bronzed giants of literature just serves to cement popular opinion about the literary establishment being an old men's club. Read some Stephen King and shut up.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
suprisingly excellentNov. 6 2013
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in my opinion, this was a surprisingly excellent adaptation of the novel.
franco delivers the worst acting performance of the cast, but it certainly isn't a bad performance and the rest of the cast are excellent in their roles. the film uses some art house devices to capture the unique nature of the novel, which may be off-putting to some, but franco's directorial methods are not overly heavy-handed or obtuse.
truthfully, if you have not read as i lay dying (or have an interest in southern gothic/lit fiction) than this film is probably not for you. if you are "in" to this kind of literature and are intrigued by an art house interpretation of one of the greatest english language novels, then it is definitely worth the price of the rental.
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
A Good One.Nov. 8 2013
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Cinematography, actors, being a fan of period drama, camera lens work, story-telling are all reasons why I'd recommend this movie. If you're a fan of Faulkner literature or a serious laureate you might be inclined to see some more specific things that I'm leaving out but when talking about movies I'd highly recommend this on because in today's and yesteryear's film society this is a comparative gem which I thoroughly enjoyed.