Sunday, December 06, 2009
Movie review: The Road
Last year, about this time, I read Cormac McCarthy's bleak, post-apocalyptic novel, The Road. You can read my review of the book here. Despite its eloquent, lyrical prose, and Mr. McCarthy's formidable talent, I was vaguely offended by the book. As I stated in my book review, I did not feel that the reward offered by the book was commensurate to the suffering imposed by it. Folks, that is one grim tale.
Nonetheless, on Saturday, I went to see director John Hilcoat's adaptation for the big screen. Mr. Hilcoat did a fantastic job. The casting, the sets, the lighting, and the score (written, appropriately enough, by Nick Cave) are all incorporated into a delicately crafted piece of art. It's a fine work.
The acting is first rate. Viggo Mortensen's role, as the "Man," is convincing and powerful. With this role, Mortensen yet again demonstrates that he is destined to join the new pantheon of "great" actors alongside Daniel Day Lewis, Johnny Depp, and others. And I was startled by Kodi Smit-McPhee's heart-breaking and human performance as the "Boy." A nod also to Guy Pearce in his cameo at the end. And I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Charlize Theron and her performance as the "Woman." But the stand-out performance, for me, was Robert Duvall's cameo as blind Eli. I've been a Duvall fan for many years, and his portrayal of a half-mad prophet standing amid the wreckage he forewarned against was spectacular. (I'd say it is "Oscar worthy" if I lent any credence at all to the Academy. But I don't, so I won't.)
All in all, the movie, while still bleak, is less oppressing than the book. Mr. Hilcoat treats some of the most appalling scenes from the book with admirable tact, conveying the ideas, but leaving out the unnecessary details. And he offers much more hope at the end of the movie. (There is a dog; there is a living beetle.)
But here's my beef: Why is it necessary for Cormac McCarthy and John Hilcoat to construct this far-fetched, hellish vision of the end of the world in order to convey some message about a father's love for his son? Take a look around, people! There is an AIDS epidemic in Africa; Afghanistan is a war-torn hell on earth; people starve to death in the streets of Calcutta. The elaborate fable that Mr. McCarthy has created is just an abstract depiction of the suffering that occurs daily on our little blue marble.
There is a scene in the movie, wherein blind Eli and the Man are sitting by a fire, talking about the state of the world. The Man asks Eli: "Do you ever wish you were dead?" Eli replies, "No. It's foolish to wish for luxuries in times like these."
Well, that is the way I feel about The Road (movie and book). It's an unnecessary indulgence in the angst common to people who live comfortably. Instead of the navel-gazing speculation about how human beings would behave in a far-fetched post-Apocalyptic world, why not take a look at the world around you?
Mr. McCarthy, you want to see a depiction of parental love in the face of death? Try this movie: Yesterday. Instead of indulging in your god-damned self-pity and despair, why not try to make a difference?