Thursday, November 12, 2009

Thoughts on the film: The Road

Last night I sat in on the Creative Screenwriting screening of The Road.

For the record, if there are three film screenings going on at the same time at your theater, you should probably warn people so they don't spend two hours looking for parking.

Also, if half your theater is reserved for VIPs, you have too many VIPs.

So anyway, there was a movie. I've never read the book; it was one of those I've had on my list for years but never got around to, but I brought Best Friend, who adores the book and has frequently recommended it to me.

Best Friend was concerned going in and almost didn't want to watch the movie because she was afraid of what they would do to it. The joy of reading Cormac McCarthy, she said, is in his style. In a film you'll either lose his beautiful prose or you'll end up with two hours of voice over.

The writer, Joe Penhall, and the director, John Hillcoat who also directed The Proposition, went in completely aware of that problem. They said in the Q&A that they decided to ignore the beauty of his prose because otherwise it could become a crutch. So instead of a film full of voice overs, they only kept a few short and significant moments when The Man, played by Viggo Mortensen, expressed his feelings directly. This way, those moments meant something. And it worked.

It made me think about the horrible piece of carrion that is Lions for Lambs. That film was 88 boring minutes of talking heads. In the Q&A for that film the writer, Matthew Michael Carnahan, admitted he originally started it as a play, and when he went to turn it into a screenplay he decided he didn't want to change anything. But it's not a play. It's a film. The rules are different, and by ignoring them, he created the most boring movie I've ever seen.

Yes, it's even more boring than 2001.

But The Road, on the other hand, deftly navigated that pitfall. They took the core of the novel and put it on screen perfectly, leaving out the redundancies and speeding up the pace, which is exactly what you do in a novel adaptation. Best Friend was pleased.

This is a story about a father and son surviving the end of the world. It's not about the end of the world, it's about the unbreakable bond between two men who only have each other. Small story, big world. It would be easy to lose focus and focus on explosions and spectacle, but this story is so much better than that. 2012 can have its explosions, this film is about people and what we become when law disappears and we have to choose. Are we good guys or bad guys?

It's absolutely beautiful. Normally on the way out of the theater I deconstruct what I just saw and try to figure out where the weaknesses were in the film. This time, I got nothin. I think The Road is an example of a film crafted by men who love and understand the story as if they had lived it. Every beat is an emotional journey.

Plus the casting is awesome. Is there anything Garret Dillahunt is not currently in?

It's not a laugh riot, to be sure, which is why the Thanksgiving release date might hurt its performance, but The Road is well worth seeing, if for no other reason than to demonstrate how a story should be told.


  1. Nice. I've never read any of McCarthy's books either but I really loved the film version of NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, so I look forward to THE ROAD.

    I've never seen Lions for Lambs and I had no idea it was a play at first. Yikes. Playwriting is VERYYYY different from screenwriting, for sure.

  2. I loved the book. I loved The Proposition. And I loved No Country For Old Men.

    I can't wait for this to be released.

  3. Good hearing good news about a film, I hope more are churned out!

  4. Only three books have given me nightmares. This was one of them. I'm scared to see it- but I know it's going to be amazing. The CS Screening system isn't working for me- it's either on a night I'm busy or the server crashes.

  5. Anonymous6:23 AM

    On boring talk-y movies, ever seen Conversations with Other Women? (Helena Bonham Carter)

    Had it's morments, but was mostly 2 people talking, nonstop, about their failed relationship.

  6. Anonymous8:16 AM

    I saw it at the AFI screening on nov 4th.I loved the book and loved the movie. Thought Viggo was terrific so was the boy.

  7. Anonymous8:19 AM

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