Jonathan Livingston Seagull


“Jonathan Livingston Seagull” – Boy, is this boring! It’s been said that you have to be in the right state of mind to watch this– I suppose that this means that you have to be loaded with coffee. A quick summary: A seagull’s life is primarily concerned with eating garbage and fighting amongst themselves for scraps of food. One gull, Jonathan, has a little more ambition- he wants to fly higher and faster than any seagull has ever done. A frightening flight demonstration gets Jonathan expelled from the flock. He goes off alone and after a seagull’s lifetime of wandering, he finds a flock of enlightened seagulls that teach him about the nature of being. At their urging, Jonathan goes back to his flock and teaches what he’d learned to other seagulls about breaking free from one’s limits. This (rather thin) plot wouldn’t be such a problem if it weren’t for the delivery. James Franciscus (the voice of Jonathan) doesn’t sound very compelling using a hoarse whisper throughout the film- plus it sounds like he’s reading off of cue cards. Then we have several shots done in the dark, making it hard to tell what’s going on. And it’s difficult for us to tell the birds apart, so we never really identify with the “characters”. The movie definitely runs too long and has some serious pacing problems- it’s unable to maintain a viewer’s interest, and I’d found it necessary to break the viewing in two so I wouldn’t fall asleep. The film was originally released for video in 1982, before VHS Hi-Fi, so early copies have the soundtrack in hiss-monster lo-fi mono when played on modern VCRs. Lee Holdridge’s lush score and Neil Diamond’s soothing and mellifluous voice, appearing at various intervals, are undoubtedly the high points of the movie.

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