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The Mysteries of Pittsburgh (2009)



Average Rating: 3.9/10
Reviews Counted: 41
Fresh: 5 | Rotten: 36

A listless interpretation of Michael Chabon's first novel, Mysteries of Pittsburgh features none of the source material's charm, but has coming-of-age film cliches in abundance.


Average Rating: 4/10
Critic Reviews: 18
Fresh: 2 | Rotten: 16

A listless interpretation of Michael Chabon's first novel, Mysteries of Pittsburgh features none of the source material's charm, but has coming-of-age film cliches in abundance.



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Movie Info

A recent college graduate desperate to have one last fling before launching himself into the real world falls into a strange love triangle with a charismatic couple in director Rawson Thurber's feature adaptation of Michael Chabon's freshman novel. Peter Sarsgaard, Mena Suvari, Nick Nolte, Sienna Miller, and Jon Foster star in a film that was adapted for the screen by director Thurber. ~ Jason Buchanan, Rovi

May 9, 2006


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All Critics (42) | Top Critics (18) | Fresh (5) | Rotten (36) | DVD (3)

Shoddy and never credible, The Mysteries of Pittsburgh is an ungainly coming-of-age drama based on a (hopefully much better) novel by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Michael Chabon.

April 16, 2009 Full Review Source: Seattle Times
Seattle Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The Mysteries of Pittsburgh seems to be missing an essential element of drama, of risk, underneath its glossy, golden sheen.

April 16, 2009 Full Review Source: Washington Post
Washington Post
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The movie is all over the place and it loses its focus.

April 13, 2009 Full Review Source: At the Movies
At the Movies
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I can't imagine the novel's characters were this flat, formulaic and puzzling in their behavior.

April 13, 2009 Full Review Source: At the Movies
At the Movies
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The real mystery about The Mysteries of Pittsburgh is how writer-director Rawson Marshall Thurber could turn Michael Chabon's delightful debut novel into such a bore.

April 10, 2009 Full Review Source: New York Post
New York Post
Top Critic IconTop Critic

When characters say things like "It's gonna be a great summer," or call someone "Old sport" and act oh-so-beautifully doomed, it's time to call the cliché police.

April 10, 2009 Full Review Source: New York Daily News
New York Daily News
Top Critic IconTop Critic

boring and aimless

March 2, 2011 Full Review Source: 7M Pictures
7M Pictures

A mess of a movie, looking to contort Chabon's novel into a darkly personal story of choice and desire. Instead the film sloppily lumbers around in search of a consistent dramatic path. It's handsome enough, just wildly misguided from frame one.

August 26, 2009 Full Review Source:

The fact is, some novels don't translate well to the screen.

August 11, 2009 Full Review Source: Movie Metropolis
Movie Metropolis

Guts the book of complexity and ambiguity and reduces it to another trite coming-of-age story with a badly written voice-over narrative by a boring post-adolescent.

April 23, 2009 Full Review Source: Boston Phoenix
Boston Phoenix

Michael Barrett's cinematography gives the film and the city of Pittsburgh just enough of a picturesque dream-like quality that, like its protagonist, you'll remember.

April 17, 2009 Full Review Source: Los Angeles Daily News
Los Angeles Daily News

[Art] is as passive as Benjamin Button minus the freak-of-nature excuse.

April 16, 2009 Full Review Source: Washington City Paper
Washington City Paper

Somehow, even as writer-director Rawson Marshall Thurber slathers on the voiceover ooze or unwittingly evokes Sophie's Choice with his central romantic triangle, he still manages to astonish with The Mysteries of Pittsburgh.

April 15, 2009 Full Review Source: New York Press
New York Press

Sarsgaard revels in a character who attracts all eyes and mouths, but the narration is too much of an explanatory crutch to parse the roundelay of identity exploration.

April 11, 2009 Full Review Source:

Here's the big mystery of Pittsburgh: How did this movie manage to be so completely terrible?

April 10, 2009 Full Review Source: CHUD

A misguided head-spinner of conflicting tones, listless lead performances and dashed expectations.

April 10, 2009 Full Review Source: Jam! Movies
Jam! Movies

Sarsgaard is the only interesting element, but he doesn't make the movie worth seeing.

April 10, 2009 Full Review Source: St. Paul Pioneer Press
St. Paul Pioneer Press

Audience Reviews for The Mysteries of Pittsburgh

In "The Mysteries of Pittsburgh," at first glance, Art(Jon Foster) might seem to be committing career suicide by having sex with his supervisor Phlox(Mena Suvari) all over their workplace. But then this is just a summer job for Art at the Book Barn while he considers his next move, so where's the harm? His father(Nick Nolte), a gangster of ill-repute who he has dinner with once a month in a swanky restaurant, has his next five moves planned which include passing his stock trading exam and working in Baltimore. That's where his career comes in. Where Jane(Sienna Miller) comes in is at a party, after which they go eat pie. After that, Jane's boyfriend Cleveland(Peter Sarsgaard) takes Art for a ride.

"The Mysteries of Pittsburgh" is a disappointingly inert adaptation of Michael Chabon's novel(I don't remember that much about it except its ending and that I liked it). In its depiction of a transitional year of 1983, it is about a person caught between the respectability he dreads and the eccentric friends he loves. On the one hand, the movie keeps the central relationships intact, but also manages to lose a lot of the book's offbeat energy in its move to the screen which is best exemplified by the casting of non-entity Jon Foster in the lead. That's not to mention too much reliance on daddy issues and droning narration which does eventually disappear. The supporting cast is very, very good but even they cannot save a movie where there is no center.
June 23, 2010
Walter M.

Super Reviewer

It's A Home At the End of the World all over again - i.e., one of my most favorite books (which coincidentally also centres on, but is not limited to, a complicated love triangle) is simplified so much that not only are almost all sub-plots removed, but the main plot is so diluted that nothing much of any consequence seems to happen. Even though, in actuality, a lot does happen. Simply put, this is a mediocre adaptation of a superior novel. What elevates this slightly above A Home are some excellent performances. Peter Sarsgaard handles his ambisexual (my term) character with skill, and Jon Foster comes close to matching this, although his monotone delivery can be hard to follow. It's little wonder this failed to set the box-office on fire but it still remains a big disappointment, particularly since Michael Chabon's works lend themselves very well to adaptation (Wonder Boys is evidence of that).
October 24, 2009

Super Reviewer

I always have high expectations for movies involving or set in Pittsburgh because that's my hometown, but this one was highly disappointing. The storyline was weak, and it just seemed like there was no point to watching it. A waste of time...
August 26, 2009

Super Reviewer

There's nothing exceptionally rotten about this critically-panned adaptation of Michael Chabon's well-received novel; it simply translates into a pretty flat coming-of-age story in cinematic form. Director Rawson Marshall Thurber manages to get a few moments of genuine human emotion, most of them involving Peter Sarsgaard in an enigmatic and thoroughly engaging star turn, but other than that... let's just say he doesn't elevate a dull and obvious screenplay from mediocrity. Jon Foster is an okay choice for the role of Art, but his too-obvious narration gets tiresome rather fast. The women in the cast don't fare much better, with Mena Suvari barely having a character to inhabit and Sienna Miller showing a rather alarming lack of naturality.

The Mysteries of Pittsburgh is not a film I'd recommend to anybody, but then again, it isn't the type of film that's worth lamenting on. Just like Art Bechstein should... let's move on to something else, kids.
August 3, 2009

Super Reviewer

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