Written and directed by James Franco, “As I Lay Dying,” is an ambitious adaptation that tries too hard to be a noteworthy art experiment.
Based on the novel by William Faulkner’ “As I Lay Dying,” follows a family as they make their way to the nearby town of Jefferson to lay their mother to rest.
While the novel explores each sibling’s perspective through different chapters, Franco attempts to translate split chapters, with split screen, for most of the film. This is an interesting challenge for the medium and I’m sure the experimentation warrants Franco another notch on his creative bedpost, but as far as effective narration, cohesive storytelling and execution…it’s pointless, distracting, annoying and frustrating.
Even more frustrating, is how it subtracts from the otherwise notable performances from the cast. Several times throughout the film, Franco shows the same shot from different angles, killing the performances. It was done to try what hasn’t been tried and some might even call it an admirable endeavor but the juxtaposition of shots doesn’t serve a purpose, making it a spectacle instead.
To make matters worse, you see the potential; the story is interesting, and the performances are good enough to warrant a decent adaptation, yet, the translation to screen is lost in own attempt to be different.
It’s hard to hate this film for trying something new, especially in the age of remake regurgitation. Did it work? Not really. But can you blame the guy for trying? I’m still deciding if it’s pretentious BS or an artist who continues to want to be creative and challenge himself no matter what the naysayers say or how the projects end up.