As I Lay Dying (2013)
Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.
Directed by Oscar-nominated James Franco from a screenplay by James Franco and Matt Rager, As I Lay Dying is adapted from the 1930 classic American novel by William Faulkner. The story chronicles the Bundren family as they traverse the Mississippi countryside to bring the body of their deceased mother Addie to her hometown for burial. Addie's husband Anse and their children, Cash, Darl, Jewel, Dewey Dell, and the youngest one Vardaman, leave the farm on a carriage with her coffin - each affected by Addie's death in a profound and different way. Their road trip to Jefferson, some forty miles away, is disrupted by every antagonistic force of nature or man: flooded rivers, injury and accident, a raging barn fire, and not least of all -- each individual character's personal turmoil and inner commotion which at times threaten the fabric of the family more than any outside force.(c) Millenium … More
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Critic Reviews for As I Lay Dying
I don't pretend to have a clue how to adapt William Faulkner's "As I Lay Dying" for the screen, but unlike James Franco, I, at least, didn't try.
As a whole ... "As I Lay Dying" conveys some of Faulkner's themes, and the details of the Bundren family story, with clarity and concision.
It remains to be seen whether James Franco can live up to his outsized ambitions.
Like Franco's other directorial efforts, it ends up coming across as an academic art object, somewhere halfway between a graduate thesis and a video installation-interesting, but only in context.
Faulkner fans... need not be up in arms about this version of his Nobel Prize winner.
Audience Reviews for As I Lay Dying
As their mother dies, a family journeys across the county to bury her.
Dear James Franco,
While adapting William Faulkner's multi-voiced and complexly written novel is no easy task, James Franco's film fails on almost every level. It seems like everybody who had an idea got their idea into the film, and the result is a mishmash shitfest. The split-screen, direct address of the camera, the shots of Tim Blake Nelson drooling all combine to prove that James Franco should never direct a film again. Let's just take the split-screens: I've almost never seen split-screens work (the one exception that immediately comes to mind is (500) Days of Summer), but the reason they don't work is they take a responsibility that should belong to the director and transfer that responsibility to the audience. Rather than choosing what to show you, Franco puts the onus on you to decide what to watch. Likewise the direct address shots and reaction shots are indicative of a filmmaker who can't tell his story visually.
On the positive side, when I read the novel, I imagined Tim Blake Nelson and Logan Marshall-Green in these roles. The casting is perfect, and while the script isn't good, these actors make it seem better than it is.
Overall, I hope James Franco goes back to just looking good in movies.
This drama based on the novel As I Lay Dying by William Fulkner seemed like a difficult task for anyone, but it seemed that James Franco didn't think so... he was the star, co-writer and a director and did an amazing job! There is no wonder that his directorial debut was screened in the Un Certain Regard section at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival - simply deserved it! One of the bravest brave and most interesting attempts to pull off a film with a high degree of difficulty.
The story of a grim journey which becomes a tragic ordeal of poverty and misery was unforgettable. Franco co-stars as Darl Bundren, the glowering son in a dirt-poor family in rural Mississippi. Tim Blake Nelson is the haggard, toothless father Anse, and Beth Grant plays the dying mother Addie Bundren. Jim Parrack and Logan Marshall-Green play Cash and Jewel, the other two grownup brothers; Ahna O'Reilly plays their sister Dewey and Brady Permenter is the smallest child, Vardaman. When Addie dies, the family attempts to honour her last wish for a burial in her far-off hometown of Jackson, a plan that necessitates taking the body on a long journey in a home-carpentered coffin on the back of a precarious horse-drawn cart, with the whole family glumly along for the ride.
One of the most interesting productions in the recent ways has Franco presenting the big part of the story in split screen. Long, unhurried scenes will unfold, with mumbled, throwaway dialogue (I really had a problem with the accent, almost half of the movie was difficult to understand). Franco is skilfully using two different frames, left and right: sometimes they will show two differing and significant shots, sometimes hardly more than a fractured version of the same shot. Sometimes they will be two almost exactly similar shots of the same featureless sky, with the non-matching vertical join line almost invisible. Lots of critics will take this as gimmicky and self-conscious, but it is consistently and seriously presented, and Franco's As I Lay Dying is a worthwhile movie, approached in an intelligent and creative spirit.
Acting of the whole cast was very strong, with a star turn from Nelson as the prematurely aged patriarch - transformation which is to be seen to be believed! If you are interested in all this presented lucidly and confidently - check this film!
Only see this film if you've read the novel. It was a brave undertaking to attempt to adapt it, but this was surprisingly solid as an adaptation.
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