Great book, I'm told, but greatness eludes the film's grasp.
On the one hand, it's a powerful story, some earnest acting, an intriguing concept, and breathtaking views to work with.
But its execution is, in a word, lame.
Yes, yes, I cried like a baby at the end, but for two hours preceding I was WILDLY distracted by how freshly-pressed "Marsh Girl's" clothing was, how clean her hair, how great her make-up. For example, imagine this film in the hands of The Revenant's Alejandro G. Iñárritu and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki!
Instead (and I'm sure 'budget' had everything to do with it), we get a super-glossy, high-def/digital affair (rather than 35mm) that feels like an NBC After-School Special.
Crawdads is not gritty, and yet it should be.
And it's not gorgeous, yet it should be.
And it's not sweeping and grand, surrounded by a mighty, all-enveloping musical score, yet it should be.
This film could have been Nell + The Prince of Tides surrounded by a trial as gooey as Gregory Peck's in To Kill a Mockingbird, but we don't get a kajillion light years near any of that.
Heck, I would have even settled for southern gothic along the lines of Ethan Hawke's and Gwyneth Paltrow's Great Expectations, but nope, we don't even get that!
So what's left?
Well, not much.
A rushed beginning, a tasteless center, and an ending that—while promising—could have been UNFORGETTABLE and OSCAR-BOUND.
Oh well, as Browning surmised, "Man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?"