Kevin Spacey has made a career out of appearing more intelligent, more confident, and more clever than everyone else around him. It's thus surprising, and refreshing, to witness his 180-degree turn as a bumbling, timid sweetheart named Quoyle in The Shipping News, based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by E. Annie Proulx.
Quoyle's naivete leaves him at the mercy of abominations like Petal (Cate Blanchett), who slips into his car at a gas station to evade another guy, then informs him that she'll be fucking him by ten that night. Their union spawns a baby girl named Bunny, whom Quoyle finds himself raising alone while Petal goes out and screws other guys.
Because Quoyle continues to love Petal despite the fact that she treats him like utter shit for years, and because he works a menial job as an inksetter, it is easy to mistake him for being unintelligent. The point of this film seems to be to prove to the viewer that he isn't; that he's really a smart, interesting guy who's been repressed by jerks his whole life.
His potential for coolness is unlocked by a string of fortuitous events. One of these is that his long lost aunt (Judy Dench) shows up and convinces Quoyle to move with her to their ancestral home in Newfoundland. Quoyle applies for an inksetting position at the local paper, and for some reason, is offered a job as a reporter, which he turns out to be pretty darn good at. Eventually, Quoyle meets and woos the town's only other single parent, the pretty Wavey (Julianne Moore).
There is no climax to this movie and no suspense. Upon arriving at the town and lucking his way to social and economical success, Quoyle doesn't have much else to do but bum around and talk to the locals. Fortunately, Spacey's performance is terrific, and the film is too beautifully shot and scored to be boring.
Of course, walks in the park are also beautifully shot and scored, and they don't cost you eight bucks.