Review of “Where the Crawdads Sing,” a Southern drama that is too long and dull.
If you go to “Where the Crawdads Sing” expecting a nice animated movie about a shellfish choir, you’ll be very disappointed.
No, the sad movie is about a beautiful woman who lives in a marsh. And don’t forget about it! Based on the popular book by the controversial author Delia Owens, the dialogue glosses over abuse and rape and talks about sea creatures, grass, and owls.
It’s fine for a book to have a lot of flowery languages. On-screen, though, it seems like an act. A slog in a bog.
Sure, we love to see Daisy Edgar-Jones all the time. She is a talented British actress who became famous thanks to the great miniseries “Normal People.” But, unlike that show, “Crawdads” only gives her a Southern accent to chew on.
We first meet her character Kya when she is arrested for killing Chase, a man who fell from a watchtower and died. David Strathairn plays a lawyer who is a lot like Atticus Finch. To explain what happened, she tells her lawyer, a kind of Atticus Finch.
In the 1950s, Kya (Jojo Regina), her mother, siblings, and a cruel father live in a cabin far from a North Carolina town. To get anywhere, you have to take a boat. When they all leave the dangerous situation one by one, including the bad pop, she is left to take care of herself.
She is beautiful and grown up, but everyone in town avoids her as they did Hester Prynne. They call her a “marsh girl” to make fun of her. We find out that North Carolina is a bizarro state where people who look good and are dressed well are hated. But not by Kya’s weirdly nice childhood friend Tate (Taylor John Smith), who starts to court her. She is crazy about scallops and he wants to be a biologist, so they are a great match.
Men come by boat to Kya’s house in the middle of the night, as if trying out for an aquatic version of “Say Anything.” Chase (Harris Dickinson), who is a jerk, is next in line.
Even though her choice is clear, it takes about 90 minutes of stale conversation to get there.
Tate and Chase are drawn in a rough way on screen, like an angel and a devil, and we never really like either one of them. Because the story is about a woman’s painful struggle, the movie is afraid to ever get too romantic. Kya is a good artist, but she only likes to paint pictures of snails.
Still, it’s strange how reluctant director Olivia Newman is to show violent scenes. Every bad slap and punch is shown in a safe way, and they are all easily avoided. In the beginning of the movie, one of Kya’s brothers, a little boy, walks out of the house after getting hit by their dad. His casual attitude, even though he is hurt and bloody, makes it seem like he just came from the candy store.
Also annoying are the black shop owners Mabel (Michael Hyatt) and Jumpin’ (Sterling Macer Jr.), who only exist to comfort and protect Kya and have no other details or traits that set them apart.
Edgar-Jones, an actress who is naturally weak and can make even the most shallow material feel deep, gives a hint of hope. We like Kya, and we’re with her every step of the way, even though there are about 50 too many steps after more than two hours.