As I Lay Dying

I first heard about As I Lay Dying a few months ago. I mean both this movie, and the book version. Don’t think I ever heard of the book, despite being on a list of best American books of all time.

No, I first heard about because James Franco directing it became a pretty big deal. I thought it was his first directed thing too, but turns out this guy has directed a shit ton, mostly shorts, but there are movies in there too. Go figure. What a secretly passionate man, that Franco.

Dat passion.

As I Lay Dying is a sad movie. You might be able to figure it out from the title. Or by reading the book.

Addie Bundren (Beth Grant) is dying, and her wishes are to be buried in Jefferson, a town nearby, but one that requires some travel.

Her husband, Anse (Tim Blake Nelson) tries to take care of her, while the eldest son, Cash (Jim Parrack), builds the coffin. The other two sons, Jewel (Logan Marshall-Green) and Darl (James Franco) continue with their job, but of course, she dies almost as soon as they leave.

It is their only wagon, so it sets their journey back a few days already. The daughter Dewey (Ahna O’Reilly) also joins the trip to Jefferson. Basically, everyone who goes has selfish and non selfish reasons, and enough shit hits the fan that it is basically a modern Odyssey. Also, Danny McBride is in this movie as a small role, and is no way comedic.

Split Screen
Also, split screen. This split this movie in half time wise I think.

The movie was supposed to come out to theaters sometime this fall, but I guess they changed their mind and went straight to DVD. Poor Franco.

I also found out this book was written as a steam of consciousness thing, with about fifteen or so narrators, often switching between them without a moments notice. That means you constantly get different points of views and don’t have to guess the true intentions of any single character. Which brings me to my main point: this movie was shot in a really weird way. You see that split screen? A lot of the film is in split screen, and I think it is to represent the constant different point of views represented in the book. To see multiple reactions after the same event. To tell the story in a better way.

Shit, that was really smart. Well done Franco. And creative.

I will say this story took a long time for me to really get into it. A lot of fucked up things happen by the end, a lot of which I did not see coming and definitely kept my interest. But the first half is what killed me. I hate it when a film doesn’t keep it interesting the whole time.

All of the people in this movie acted great though, which is a shame. I wonder how it would have fared if it got a theatrical release versus just a straight to DVD situation. I can’t say whether or not the movie follows the book closely or not. If it does, then the book must be pretty boring early on, and if it doesn’t then I guess it is Franco’s fault.

Probably best watched by people who love the book, and want to see it visually. Shit, if you have read the book, let me know how it compares. I know I won’t ever read it.

2 out of 4.

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