The Mysteries of Pittsburgh (2008)

Genres - Comedy Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Coming-of-Age, Period Film, Romantic Comedy  |   Release Date - Apr 10, 2009 (USA - Limited)  |   Run Time - 95 min.  |   Countries - United States  |   MPAA Rating - R
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Review by Derek Armstrong

The Mysteries of Pittsburgh gained brief notoriety when actress Sienna Miller dissed her host city during an interview, replacing the first syllable of its name with a rhyming, unprintable synonym for "feces." That unprintable synonym could also describe Rawson Marshall Thurber's movie. Based on a book by Michael Chabon (Wonder Boys), The Mysteries of Pittsburgh should have had plenty of promise. That promise was strangled as soon as they cast the lead, a dullard by the name of Jon Foster. Foster is not a terrible actor; being dull is his biggest problem. But that becomes the film's biggest problem, because this snooze is supposed to be the pivot point in a love triangle involving two beautiful, dangerous, exciting products of the counterculture, played by Miller and Peter Sarsgaard. Foster's buttoned-up Art Bechstein would not interest them even for a moment, let alone enough to turn their worlds upside down. The extent to which anyone's world is rocked by these decidedly non-mysterious events is debatable. Art's narration, which fights to drown out the dialogue, is hugely impressed with the allegedly cosmic importance of his summer between college and business school, full of navel-gazing grandiosities like "And then it happened" and "To this day..." Art supposedly bewitches not only the glamorous rebels, but also his manager (Mena Suvari) at the bookstore where he takes a summer job, whom he boffs in all corners of the store -- quite improbably, given his general demeanor. That her character is named Phlox gets at the film's dabbling with counterfeit eccentricity; that their relationship logically began when he got his summer job, but is later described as having started in March, exemplifies how even the film's internal continuity was flubbed. Wonder Boys may have been a hit, but they could have called this one "Blunder Boys."