Where the Crawdads Sing

Where the Crawdads Sing ★★

Surface is as surface does in Olivia Newman's line by line, straight to video Lifetime adaptation of the runaway bestseller so many of us had never heard about until Taylor Swift decided she'd pick it up, stowe it away in her alt folk coattails, and write a song for it.

There's plot, plot and more plot and that's all there is to be had here. There is so little character to the characters and the way they're written that I felt like they were as lost in the swamp just as I might be if I tried to traverse those waters out there myself. This is a manifesto of sorts, a romance for the outliers, for those that read a book or three a year and will watch only one of the movies made from them; it sits there as plain and stark and bland as it could despite its $90 million domestic gross when it has all the characteristics and "target audience", dead-eyed sheen of the streaming movies that are attacking us from all sides in the 2020's.

While it's not hard to argue or see that much of Delia Owens' plotting of this novel is wrapped up in the real life controversy that still courts her from her time in Zambia, and thus why this film (and I would imagine the book as well) hits with a kind of absolute moral thud in its final moments, I cannot tell a lie in that I found the Marsh Girl's story somewhat moving despite the paint by numbers swampland (misery) porn storytelling on display every single moment of its two hours. Maybe I'm more schmaltzy than I ever realized (especially as I've gotten older) or maybe it's just I tend to find myself overcome by anything that makes my wife cry more than once.

Though my being moved by this may come down to a few carefully written monologues (hey there David Straithairn), some beautiful images inserted throughout, and a southern upbringing of mine that somehow ropes me into anything set in my geographical region, I'm still not sure what to make of this picture, something so on the nose in every way it's made that it has binoculars set firmly in place for the way it will look, feel, and the way its story will be told right up to its muddled ending.

I guess there's something comforting in this kind of story, this kind of storytelling, but sadly there's nothing lasting about it. In a way, it's like a bowl of grits you've just finished eating... It fools you into thinking you've been filled up when really you're stomach has just been expanded by what you've consumed. You'll always need another and another and another and it's never quite enough to satisfy that hunger for an actual meal of strong characters image a strong story that just isn't to be had here despite its desperate attempts be exactly that.

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