In the opening monologue of “The Legend of 1900,” the narrator, who is later revealed as the main character, says “You are never done for as long as you have a good story to tell.”
That statement is humorous because despite what could have been an engaging and a wonderful film, is dull and elongated despite its intriguing storyline, and it never ends up producing a sense of importance.
A statement this blatantly obvious shows the confidence, even cockiness of whoever is writing the film. And if the film made by confident and cocky people can’t seem to take its own advice, then the viewer is in for a bumpy ride. Which is what this movie becomes – and not in a good way.
The film is told from the perspective of Max Tooney, played by Pruitt Taylor Vince. As Tooney looks for an old friend at the site of an abandoned ship, he tells the life story of the friend to the people who are helping Tooney look for him. The friend, simply named 1900, was found abandoned on the ship atop a piano. A lowly crew member raised the boy after finding him, and eventually instilled in him a love for playing the piano. Eventually the boy grew up and became one of the world’s greatest piano players, without ever stepping foot off the ship.
For the first hour or so, the movie is really boring. Basically, it focuses on 1900 and how he grows up. Once the boy becomes the version of 1900 that is played by Tim Roth, the film begins to shine.
Roth, in one of his few roles as an antagonist, gives a great performance as a masterful piano player. The problem is those cast alongside him seem to be strongly miscast. There is never any sense of chemistry between the actors, and when that visibly shows on screen it can effect how the viewer watches the film. The actors aren’t convincing, so the story isn’t convincing.
The film does present an interesting little subplot toward the end. 1900 falls in love with a girl who is on the ship, and it’s obvious she is perfectly content with living off the ship. So the question is raised, does 1900 get off the ship to continue his relationship with the girl, abandoning the only life he knows? Or does he stay on the ship with the life that makes him happy, thus losing the only love he has ever known?
Naturally, the movie screws up the only interesting thing it has going for it by having the love interest played by 17-year-old Melanie Thierry. Apparently, the viewer is supposed to believe in love at first sight happening between her and the 38-year-old Roth, or at least enough to care about whether or not he gets off the ship to pursue this love or persuade the underage minor to live the rest of her life on a ship with him.
Had the movie focused on the love aspect of 1900’s life, and made it somewhat believable or convincing, it would have been more interesting. But when the film takes nearly an hour and a half of to get to this, it makes it considerably unbelievable, and constantly breaks away from any dialogue or character development to place unnecessary musical numbers in the way of the next scene, it just becomes overly long and ambiguous.
Rating: 2 of 5 stars