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Where the Crawdads Sing (2022)

Reggie W

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Title: Where the Crawdads Sing (2022)

Tagline: Secrets are buried just beneath the surface.

Genre: Drama, Mystery

Director: Olivia Newman

Cast: Daisy Edgar-Jones, Taylor John Smith, Harris Dickinson, Michael Hyatt, Sterling Macer Jr, David Strathairn, Garret Dillahunt, Eric Ladin, Ahna O'Reilly, Joe Chrest, Logan Macrae, Luke David Blumm, Charlie Talbert, Jojo Regina, Jayson Warner Smith, Billy Slaughter, Robert Larriviere, Caroline Cole, Bill Kelly, Blue Clarke, Sarah Durn, Suzette Lange, Jerri Tubbs, Mike Harkins, Wyatt Parker, Taylor Shurte, Elton LeBlanc, Michael Wozniak, Grace Hinson, Will Bundon, Emma Willoughby, Michael A. Newcomer, Patrick Nicks, Brad Blanchard, Steve Kish, Jerri Tubbs, Lillian Dorsett, Anna Kabis, Zoey Reid

Release: 2022-07-15

Runtime: 125

Plot: Abandoned by her family, Kya raises herself all alone in the marshes outside of her small town. When her former boyfriend is found dead, Kya is instantly branded by the local townspeople and law enforcement as the prime suspect for his murder.

 

Reggie W

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Alright, so saw this on Friday night, my wife loved the novel, and this was the first time she and I attended a picture together since Knives Out. So, this was in part why I really wanted to go out to see this because my wife has been totally avoiding the cinema during Covid.

This is one of those pictures that would have been a huge A-list picture back in the 1970s or 1980s. Now, in these times, it is sort of a minor drama that is a bit old fashioned in how it is presented. I think made back in the 1970s, 1980s, or 1990s it would have been a much better film.

So, what is this? It's a murder mystery/courtroom drama about a young girl that gets abandoned in a house way out in the marshlands when she is about 10 years old and has to raise herself. Her father is abusive and drives her mother and all her siblings away and then finally just leaves himself, just leaving her there.

As she reaches her late teens she becomes involved with a couple of guys. One that genuinely cares for her, the other that just wants a sex toy to use on the side. She is socially awkward due to spending so much time alone but she is intelligent. She spends her time in the marsh learning about the plant and wildlife that lives there with her.

I did not read the novel but my wife was so into it after reading it she wanted me to listen to the audiobook version of it on a long car trip. The book paints a nice atmosphere and did a good job handling the murder mystery aspect of the story from the part I heard (I never finished it). Also the main character Kya, is a really interesting character in the book.

Unfortunately, the film kind of does a poor job with the mystery and the presentation of Kya. It plays basically like a TV movie and like many movies made today, I feel like it is made not to confuse the audience. So, everything is done to make every character, every twist, everything overly simplified so as not to lose the audience.

When the picture gets to the courtroom drama part, not really a spoiler to say Kya is the one suspected of committing the murder because she is an "outsider' in her community, it is about as flat and lifeless as it gets. This even with the presence of the wonderful David Strathairn as her attorney.

Overall, I would not say this is a bad film, it is a decent story and is often pretty to look at. None of the actors really stand out, the best performance is from Garrett Dillahunt as the abusive father. It is a small part but he is locked in and turns it into something memorable.

My wife's verdict? The book was 1000 times better.
 

Reggie W

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As we discussed this in the car on the ride home I said to my wife that if Sidney Lumet had made the picture it probably would have been, potentially, a minor classic. He knew how to wring every drop out of a story like this.
 

Adam Lenhardt

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This is one of those pictures that would have been a huge A-list picture back in the 1970s or 1980s. Now, in these times, it is sort of a minor drama that is a bit old fashioned in how it is presented. I think made back in the 1970s, 1980s, or 1990s it would have been a much better film.
While sitting in the theater tonight watching this, I was struck by the fact it could have been released as-is in the fifties or sixties without any controversies. It's not only old-fashioned, it's very steadfastly not modern -- especially in the depiction of the various supporting characters.

So, what is this? It's a murder mystery/courtroom drama about a young girl that gets abandoned in a house way out in the marshlands when she is about 10 years old and has to raise herself.
It played to me like a morality play about human nature: The town's prejudice toward "the marsh girl" for being different; the savage entitlement of a certain kind of man who believes those in his orbit are his to do what he wishes with; and the difference between what is just and what is legal.

Unfortunately, the film kind of does a poor job with the mystery and the presentation of Kya. It plays basically like a TV movie and like many movies made today, I feel like it is made not to confuse the audience. So, everything is done to make every character, every twist, everything overly simplified so as not to lose the audience.
This was my biggest problem with the movie. Each character is just one thing, which makes the murder mystery pretty straightforward to deduce.

When the picture gets to the courtroom drama part, not really a spoiler to say Kya is the one suspected of committing the murder because she is an "outsider' in her community, it is about as flat and lifeless as it gets. This even with the presence of the wonderful David Strathairn as her attorney.
I agree with this as well. I never really felt the animosity of the community while she was on trial. And Strathairn's defense attorney was so obviously capable and respected, while the prosecutor was so obviously failing to convince beyond a reasonable doubt, that there was never much suspense about the outcome.

None of the actors really stand out, the best performance is from Garrett Dillahunt as the abusive father. It is a small part but he is locked in and turns it into something memorable.
He is always terrific, whether he's playing good guys or bad guys. I liked the quiet kind dignity of Strathairn's performance, too.

I don't think Daisy Edgar-Jones gave a bad performance, but I do think she was miscast. She just never looked like a wild girl of the swamp to me. The part called for someone more like a young Dale Dickey, someone who wears her life on her face, and has something a little bit feral about her.

As we discussed this in the car on the ride home I said to my wife that if Sidney Lumet had made the picture it probably would have been, potentially, a minor classic. He knew how to wring every drop out of a story like this.
I think with a different lead and a better screenplay, it could have been successful.

And greater social consciousness. The black proprietors of the local general store, in the South at the height of the civil rights movement, are this young woman's main connection to civilization for most of her life. This movie leans a little too heavily into the Sambo and Mammy archetypes with those characters, and only glancingly addresses the risks they've taken on by helping her in the ways that they did, and what it could have cost them.

And greater atmosphere. I think about In the Heat of the Night back in 1967, where you can practically feel the oppressive Southern heat and humidity, and an indeterminate menace hangs in the air. This movie was content to make both swamp and town picture perfect beautiful, but the lack of muck and grit keeps the audience at arm's length.
 

benbess

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An insightful critique. Haven't read the book. But I liked the movie a lot. I'm somewhat burned out on superheroes, and so to me this movie was refreshingly different, even if very old fashioned.
 

Reggie W

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An insightful critique. Haven't read the book. But I liked the movie a lot. I'm somewhat burned out on superheroes, and so to me this movie was refreshingly different, even if very old fashioned.

Honestly, I enjoyed seeing it in a cinema. I always find it interesting to see how a novel is brought to the screen, particularly when it is a popular novel. I've heard several women rave about this book, including my wife. I listened to somewhere more than half of the audio book. The novel has excellent atmosphere and does a great job creating images in your head of the marsh and the area where she lives. The film gets some of that but I think misses a lot of it. In the novel Kya's relationship with the flora and fauna is very interesting and more important. In the film it is kind of just used as her potential way out of having no education or job prospects. In the novel, to me, the most interesting aspect of the story, the part that drew me in and made it unique was Kya and her love and understanding of the marsh. However, this maybe was also the most complex part of adapting this for the filmmakers and they instead lean more into the murder drama and her relationship with the people she knows.

The end result of that for the film is we get a pretty simplistic murder mystery and very simplistic courtroom drama because these were not the aspects of the novel that made it interesting and unique.

I don't think it is a great film by any stretch but it is decent. When we were at the cinema to see it the audience was 95% female with lots of groups of women seeing it together. A mix of older and younger women. I chatted with three of the women that were there and they all had read the novel and loved it. I think the key with that is each person's imagination sees the story in a certain way that is likely not going to match how the filmmakers present the story.

The approach they took to bringing this to the screen was to just try to present as straightforwardly as they could the primary bits of the story. So, in the end you lose a lot of the atmosphere and you lose a lot of Kya's mystery and relationship with the marsh.

To me it ended up having a very TV movie feel to it. The story gets told, in the way that it is told it becomes more predictable, I think because that is how they wanted to tell it. I would not call it bad nor good, just simply constructed.

Like you though, I enjoyed it for what it is. A solid story about people with real stakes for the characters that focused on their relationships. Can't say I have superhero burnout because I don't watch the majority of those pictures. It was far more engaging for me because I could feel something for the characters and what they were going through than a superhero picture would be.
 
Movie information in first post provided by The Movie Database

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