Where The Crawdads Sing (2022)
Director: Olivia Newman
Screenwriter: Lucy Alibar
Starring: Daisy Edgar-Jones, Taylor John Smith, Harris Dickinson, Michael Hyatt, David Strathairn
If you want to get your story made into a movie, the formula seems to be fairly simple these days. Simply write a novel, preferably in the 300–450 page range, make it a thriller or loose mystery at the very least, have a female lead who must be down on her luck or wronged in some capacity, have most of the male characters be slime-balls (bonus points if you include an abusive father and/or lover as part of the back story), throw in a few romance scenes in wildly random and clichéd places and times, and make sure the story ends nicely and happily. Then wait a year or two for the novel to have gained a few million readers, and your six figure (at least) check will arrive in the post for the rights to the novel.
Or be Stephen King. Then you can write a found-poem made from stuff you bought from Target and it’ll sell. But not everyone is Stephen King.
What the introduction to this review illustrates is that, when it comes down to it, even if you haven’t seen Where the Crawdads Sing, and never do in your life, you have undoubtedly seen the film before, and probably read it in five different novels to boot. What we have here is a young woman, Kya (played by Daisy Edgar-Jones of ‘Normal People’), on trial for the murder of a young man. The history of her life leading up to this point hints and ultimately determines her guilt or innocence.
In the film’s favour, Edgar-Jones does give a good performance. Most of the acting is strong, just about everyone managing to rise above their stock characteristics, bland dialogue, and cues straight from 20th century Russian literary criticism roles and functions, but Edgar-Jones takes the award if any are given out for this film.
It’s a good job they know what they’re doing, because the rest of Where the Crawdads Sing doesn’t have the slightest clue about where to start. The direction is sloppy and seems to have been filmed in a rush, the music bearable but irrelevant. The worst of the worst, however, must be Alan Edward Bell’s editing.
Maybe it was all edited under immense pressure, because something has gone wrong. The opening half an hour or so, which is where the issue is the most obvious, has just about every shot cut far too soon. The opening act, therefore – where it should ease us into the film with some atmosphere, some room to brood, to think, to soak everything in, and actually create some mystery for our mystery film – jumps on the hype train like a five year old on a sugar rush. Not bothered to remain still for more than five seconds maximum on any shot, it bumbles around as if it’s a big action movie, disregarding the film’s call for a slower, calmer pace to allow its historical drama roots to properly dig in. Considering how some of Bell’s recent projects include The Amazing Spider-Man, The Dark Tower, and the three Hunger Games sequels, maybe some of this ran over.
Despite this hyperactive editing and direction, the film is two hours long. Which is unfortunate, because when it does finally settle into some kind of rhythm, and it has finally calmed down a little, every twist and turn can be seen coming from a marsh away, and it’s a weary, expectant drag to the finish line, including a good five minute coda which simply serves to test the patience of the moviegoer.
In Where the Crawdads Sing, the character Tate says something along the lines of ‘some words don’t have anything to say at all.’ Well, in this case, this movie doesn’t have much to say either. Spending the $24million budget on buying land to conserve the ecosystems and wildlife the movie preaches about protecting would have been a much better use of money.