By: Scott Weinberg (from his 2008 Sundance Festival review)
Most directors' first effort is NOT a huge blockbuster smash of a comedy starring Ben Stiller and Vince Vaughn, but that's how writer/director Rawson Marshall Thurber hit the scene: with Dodgeball. But based on the filmmaker's second effort, I'm guessing that Thurber took a lot of good-natured ribbing from his film-school friends and decided to snag some "indie cred" by doing a smaller movie for his second feature. That's all well and good, but it's too bad that the resulting movie -- The Mysteries of Pittsburgh -- is such an inert, episodic, and familiar piece of very typical festival fare. It's as if Mr. Thurber watched six Sundance films at random, and then just copied his favorite scenes from each one.
Based on the novel of the same name by Michael Chabon, The Mysteries of Pittsburgh is about the son of an infamous gangster who spends his last summer before "adult life" roaming around with two "free-spirited" pals. The year is 1983, and young Art Bechstein (Jon Foster) is at a serious crossroads. Completely opposed to his father's lifestyle, Art (reluctantly) plans to become a stockbroker in a few months' time -- but that means a few open months in which he can A) work at a chintzy discount book store, B) cast lovesick glances towards his new friend Jane (Sienna Miller), and C) become close pals with a bisexual street thug called Cleveland (Peter Sarsgaard). Oh, and D) nail his slightly unhinged boss (Mena Suvari).