The Mysteries of Pittsburgh

Critics Consensus

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.



Reviews Counted: 42

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User Ratings: 2,391


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Reviews Count: 0
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Average Rating: 2.6/5

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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

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Critic Reviews for The Mysteries of Pittsburgh

All Critics (42) | Top Critics (18)

  • 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.

    Apr 16, 2009 | Rating: 2/4
  • The Mysteries of Pittsburgh seems to be missing an essential element of drama, of risk, underneath its glossy, golden sheen.

    Apr 16, 2009 | Full Review…
  • The movie is all over the place and it loses its focus.

    Apr 13, 2009 | Full Review…
  • I can't imagine the novel's characters were this flat, formulaic and puzzling in their behavior.

    Apr 13, 2009
  • 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.

    Apr 10, 2009 | Rating: 1.5/4 | Full Review…
  • 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.

    Apr 10, 2009 | Rating: 2/5 | Full Review…

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.

Walter M.
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).

Daniel Parsons
Daniel Parsons

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...

Sarah Prisbylla
Sarah Prisbylla

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.

Laurence Collin
Laurence Collin

Super Reviewer

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