James Franco's As I Lay Dying earned a standing ovation following its premiere at the Cannes Film Festival, but while it shows promise for Franco's burgeoning directorial career, its stumbles highlight his newness to helming films.
William Faulkner's classic novel As I Lay Dying is a famously dense story about the destitute Bundren clan and their calamitous journey to lay their matriarch, Addie, to rest in Jefferson, MS. The trip unleashes a dismal chain of events that leaves them all somehow changed or scarred — sometimes physically.
It seems fitting that Franco, an actor-slash-author himself, would combine his love for film and literature in his feature-length directorial debut. And he does an impressive job unraveling the complex narrative, which in the book is told by 15 different characters and jumps vaguely backward and forward in time. Sure, there's no doubt that it's ambitious for a first-time filmmaker to take on one of the most acclaimed novels in American history, but at least Franco's devotion to, and admiration of, the source material is clear. He does well capturing its Southern Gothic sensibility, shooting in the mostly drab colors of the Great Depression and drawing appropriately beaten-down performances from his actors.
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