Amanda Seyfried barely saves Things Heard and Seen
Netflix's latest film arrives in Things Heard & Seen from directors Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini. The movie is an adaption of the novel All Things Cease to Appear by Elizabeth Brundage. Catherine (Amanda Seyfried) and George (James Norton) are a Manhattan couple raising their daughter Franny in the big city. When George receives an opportunity to teach art history at a nearby private college, he begrudgingly accepts. The family then moves to a historical hamlet in the Hudson Valley and comes to discover that their marriage has sinister darkness, one that rivals their new home's history.
Things Heard & Seen opens with George coming home to find his wife killed and their three-year-old daughter alone. Naturally, George hightails it to the neighbors home. The film then jumps back to reveal the events that led us to the opening moments. At the beginning of the film, it's very transparent that Catherine is in her marriage as a matter of convivence. She's recently gotten over a case of bulimia and is constantly dealing with pressure from George on her life choices. Of course, her family and friends all think the marriage is airtight.
Once the couple arrives in their new home, Catherine and her daughter immediately sense something is off. The layers of George's true nature are revealed. Initially, I thought I knew where the film would go, but there were a couple of surprises. I did know that George was controlling, but when he meets Willis (Natalia Dyer), he comes off as thirsty and borderline rapey. Granted, it was the seventies, so perhaps that was the vibe the writers intended. That said, I was too familiar with James Newton before Things Heard & Seen, and he did leave an impression on me with his acting.
Fresh off her Oscar nomination, Amanda Seyfried anchors the film with her performance. Whether it's interacting with elderly townies or entertaining George's colleagues, Seyfried's aura on-screen is natural. I particularly enjoyed her interactions with hired hand Eddy (Alex Neustaedter) and her new friend Justine (Rhea Seehorn). Neither Eddy nor Justine trusts George as far as they can throw him. Things Heard & Seen also had a supporting cast of acting veterans. They include Karen Allen, Michael O'Keefe, and F. Murray Abraham, who do what they can to elevate the script.
By the film's end, my wife and I both had perplexing looks on our faces about the film as a whole. Directors Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini also wrote the screenplay. Given that I haven't read the novel, I don't know how much was changed. Ideas are set up that are never resolved, which hurts the film's overall narrative tone. Initially, I thought Things Heard & Seen would take the route of The Amityville Horror and link George's behavior to the house. That never happens, so even if the paranormal aspects were omitted, George would still come across as a trash individual.
I will mildly recommend Things Heard & Seen for the performances of Amanda Seyfried and James Norton. Still, overall the film fails at its attempt to combine genres.
Final Grade C
Things Heard & Seen is available to stream on Netflix tomorrow, April 29th.