They’re about to wrap up filming of Michael Chabon’s novel Mysteries of Pittsburgh in Pittsburgh this week. (I just read it recently on the recommendation of a friend, it seemed especially fitting since I just moved to Pittsburgh, I really loved it.) However, everything I’ve read about the film thus far has been a little odd since whenever they do a list of who-plays-who one of the main characters is conspicuously absent. Now I have confirmation that they actually removed the 2nd main character in the film and totally rearranged the story— and the reason is hardly a mystery.
Mysteries of Pittsburgh is a beautifully written, unusual love story about a young man who has simultaneous affairs with both a woman (Phlox) and another man (Arthur). Not only did they totally strip the same-sex love affair from the story they also eliminated the central gay character (Arthur) entirely. Instead the story is now about the main character and the love triangle between him, his friend Cleveland and Cleveland’s girlfriend Jane. (Jane, of course, is sleeping with both of them.) Arthur and any trace of same-sex love (and sex) is no longer in the story. It has been totally and thoroughly de-gayed.
What pisses me off is that Rawson Marshall Thurber, the director, claims he LOVED the book and was really excited to translate it into a film. If you loved it so much why the hell did you change it so radically? The reason he gives is hardly convincing.
Noticeably absent is a key character from the book named Arthur Lecomte. "It always seemed to me a more efficient cinematic engine to employ a love triangle versus what exists in the book, which is a four-pointed rhombus, for lack of a better term," Thurber explains.Talk about bullshit. The obvious character to remove would have been Jane, not Arthur, she’s an ancillary character. But instead you turned her into a main character and into his girlfriend and wrote out Arthur?!? There is such thing as artistic license but making this choice completely guts the book. It is totally undeniable that his friendship and love affair with Arthur is the central theme of the book.
Applying Occam's Razor, I posit that you were uncomfortable with the subject matter— not only does it involve same-sex love (and lust) it is also about a young man who identifies as straight who falls in love with and has an affair with a gay man. It's just so sad that he totally rearranged the story, it's a total missed opportunity, as the tender treatment of the fluidity of sexuality is one of the things that makes Mysteries stand out among all other coming-of-age, post-college stories.
The thing I really don’t understand is that this is an indy film with Peter Saarsgaard, someone who certainly doesn’t shy away from a film with a gay themes. Traditionally these are the exact kind of films that can have a gay storyline, although you’d think that in this post-Brokeback era this kind of crap wouldn’t happen anymore. So I just don’t get it.