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As I Lay Dying

As I Lay Dying (2013)

October. 11,2013
| Drama

Strife and disaster befall a poor Mississippi family during a two-day trip by horse and wagon to bury their deceased matriarch.


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Addie Bundren (Beth Grant) is dying. Her son Darl (James Franco) takes his brother Jewel (Logan Marshall-Green) on a delivery. It's $3 after all despite Jewel's need to be by her side. Their wagon gets stuck while she dies. Her wish is to be buried in home town of Jefferson. The whole family struggles to bring her body to her final resting place.There are great actors in this movie. Tim Blake Nelson and Logan are terrific. Beth Grant is also great. In general, everybody is doing good work. The question is how did James Franco do as a director. I am not impressed. The most obvious technique is the split screen. The best thing I can ascribed to the technique is that it hides his amateurish directing style. When Beth Grant screams, the other half is trained on Jim Parrack. That's the only split-screen scene that really works. The movie struggles to gain authenticity and the split screen doesn't help at all. It looks like a modern film school technique in direct conflict with the rural backwoods feel of the family. Franco should be striving for authentic poverty. He fails as he throws various things on the wall. None of it really sticks. The actors are able to keep the audience's interest but they do it despite Franco. The river crossing shows some promise that Franco is functional as a director. Maybe he's over thinking this and tries too hard with the split screen and the actors talking at the camera. Thankfully the last 15 minutes don't have the split screen. It's some of the most compelling scenes in the movie.


By odd coincidence, I found out this movie was in the works as I was reading the book for the first time. Well, actually the second time, since I couldn't decipher a good percentage of the story the first time through and had to re-read it after looking up an on-line analysis of the book. The second time it made a lot more sense.And that's probably the reaction that viewers of this movie who have never read the book will have. The book is "stream of consciousness", with each chapter told from a different character's point of view and the narrative often breaking down into a surreal, dream-like quality. The filmmakers tried to capture that with the use of split-screen and by occasionally having characters talk directly to the camera, so the movie might be more than a little confusing if you come to it "cold".The movie is taken nearly word-for-word from the book. Most of the dialog is the same, and the major plot points were just as I pictured them from the book. When I heard about the film version, I was afraid they'd dumb it down or try to make it more "Hollywood" so a mainstream audience could follow it, but they didn't. So basically, if the tragic tale of a backwoods southern family in the early 1900s trying to get their mother's body back to her home town for burial and meeting all sorts of disasters along the way, all told in an artistic and somewhat confusing way, doesn't sound appealing, you might want to skip this one. But if you're up for the challenge, give it a go.And if you find yourself not understanding the movie at all, I'd recommend finding a good summary of the plot and characters on-line, and then reading the book so you can follow the thick southern accented dialog, then re-watch the movie. It's a well done film, and the fact that it currently has just a 5.5 star average on IMDb is a shame.


James Franco has seemingly set out to be the busiest man in Hollywood. Franco unfulfilled by just acting in recent times has taken on art, writing and adapting so called un-filmable novels with the forthcoming McCarthy adaptation Child of God premiering recently and this faithful and very intriguing adaptation of William Faulkner's revered 1930 book As I Lay Dying which had its premiere at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year.It's clear that Franco filmed this atmospheric tale on a limited budget yet was able to recruit some serious acting talent to join him on screen as the Bundren family. Stand outs in the acting stakes are Tim Blake Nelson as toothless family head Anse and Marshall-Green as half cast and grizzled Jewel. All cast members acquit themselves well to difficult material, even Franco's real life buddy and funny man Danny McBride does well in a small cameo like roll. Franco's fine direction of fellow actors is commendable but his artistic decision not so much.A strange choice by Franco is to put screen juxtaposition in a two frame format for roughly half of the films running time. This two pane structure comes off as merely annoying and takes away from the full screen beauty of much of the films images and natural landscape which are wonderfully captured by cinematographer Christina Voros. This technique was employed from an outsiders knowledge to portray the novels various voices and themes yet really is in no way integral to the films telling and as a finished product seems a tad on the pretentious side of things.If you can overcome As I Lay Dying's almost tortuous opening 30 minutes where I found myself more than tempted to stop the film in its tracks there is much to admire in the film and by the last 20 minutes you will find yourself enthralled in this strange and depressing tale of a family lost in more ways than one. As I Lay Dying gives one hope that Franco will do justice to Child of God and perhaps one day his dream project of Blood Meridian.3 concrete casts out of 5 For more movie reviews and opinions check out - www.jordanandeddie.wordpress.com


Being a Faulkner fan, I was looking forward to this movie. Unfortunately, the director thought a double frame was artistic. I found it profoundly annoying. He was obviously trying to temp the same fate as Faulkner did describing a sports coat over five pages. It didn't work. One thing a director never ought to try is to outdo the subject's artistry. He failed. I really don't have anything else to say, but IMDb requires 10 lines. So let's sing together. Oh bah dee oh bah dah life goes on, ohhhh baby life goes on. Or...I think it's really stupid I have to be so wordy. I had my say now let me go on my way. I'm standing here naked. It's really cold. I don't look like much of a man right now. Damn.