William Saroyan’s novel The Human Comedy is a sort of retelling of Homer’s epic poem The Odyssey, with elements of Greek mythology carefully woven into the story of two brothers from Ithaca, California during World War II. It began its life as a screenplay written for MGM, but after a falling out between its author and the studio, it was reworked into a novel, which became an instant bestseller in 1943. Concurrently, the abandoned script was rewritten by Howard Estabrook and released as a film the same year, garnering numerous Academy Award nominations and a win for Best Story. Though the celluloid version was received well, The New York Times noted director Clarence Brown’s reliance on “gobs of cinematic goo.” Maybe it’s the fault of the source material, because those gobs seem to be back for an encore.
For her directorial debut, Meg Ryan decided to resurrect the story for the big screen once again. Seemingly pumped through Instagram’s “Oscar Bait” filter, the trailer features two minutes of gorgeous Americana rolling beneath the heart-tugging strains of John Mellencamp’s fiddle-filled original score. Jack Quaid (Ryan’s son with Dennis Quaid) stars alongside Alex Neustaedter as the two coming-of-age leads, with Sam Shepard (The Right Stuff) and Hamish Linklater (The Big Short) providing support. Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks co-star—their fourth film together, after Joe Vs. The Volcano, Sleepless In Seattle, and You’ve Got Mail—as two salt-of-the-earth small town folk who’ve apparently had a lot of facial work.
Ithaca premiered to tepid reviews at Virginia’s Middleburg Film Festival last October. It premieres in U.S. theaters on September 9.