The Shipping News

Director:Lasse Hallström
Writer:Robert Nelson Jacobs
Miramax Films; R; 111 minutes
Cast:Kevin Spacey, Julianne Moore, Judi Dench

E. Annie Proulx's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Shipping News was a tale of rugged redemption. In it an ugly pariah named Quoyle and his daughter Bunny relocate to Newfoundland after family tragedy strikes deep. Aided by strong-willed local women, Quoyle starts to rebuild his troubled life in the severe northern landscape.

Something vital and idiosyncratic about Proulx's work gets flattened in its celluloid translation. For starters, Kevin Spacey is too winkingly omniscient to portray a meek, injured man. The novel's wind-beaten locations become quaint under Lasse Hallström's rosy cinematography and set design. Quoyle's aunt (Judi Dench) and his love interest (Julianne Moore) are the most believable characters in this smoothed-out reworking of a rough gem of a book.

If you've read The Shipping News or are planning to, it might be best to leave the film aside. Everyone else can expect a highly polished tale of growth after hardship.