Man, whenever a college professor would announce a Chekov play was on the agenda for required reading, I would roll my eyes and yawn. My younger self always found his stuff ponderous and pretentious, enough so that I’ve tried to avoid it for decades. Lo and behold, maybe Mr. Chekov was on to something, because this adaptation of his play into a movie starring Annette Bening and Saoirse Ronan actually seems extremely relevant in these days of celebrity and social networking. Bening plays Irina, an early 20th century actress who goes to visit her dying brother (Hey, look, it’s Brian Dennehy) and angry son Konstantin (Billy Howle), an aspiring playwright hopelessly in love with young actress Nina (Ronan). Shortly after her arrival, the action flashes back a couple of years to equally unhappy times during another Irina visit, one where Konstantin attempts suicide after Nina shows interest in Irina’s lover, Boris (Corey Stoll), another, more famous playwright. Considering when this was all originally written, the story is amazingly accurate in its portrayal of modern day celebrity competition at the expense of healthy relationships and, well, acting like a decent human being in general. Almost everybody in this movie behaves selfishly, and that behavior results in tragedy. Bening, Ronan and Dennehy are great, while Howle slows things up a bit. Hey, director Michael Mayer got me to relatively enjoy something with the name Chekov attached to it. I consider that a major accomplishment.
The Seagull opens at the Loft Cinema on Friday, June 8.