Tuesday, December 29, 2009
The Road (2009)
MAJOR SPOILERS OF BOTH THE BOOK AND MOVIE AHEAD-YE HAVE BEEN WARNED:
Ok? All right, here is my thesis (Thesis! College!) on the ending of The Road in (now) both its forms: some people have debated the ending and some people argue about whether or not the ending is "uplifting" or not. Like anything else when discussing these things, its pretty subjective. My take is this: in both the movie and the book the ending is actually uplifting not because the son lives. No, although thats part of it, but because the father dies. This might seem cynical, but I think McCarthy was basically saying that the Father had taught the son (or "boy" and "man" but whatever...) but in the end he was actually holding back his son from evolving as a compassionate human being, and from holding him back he was also, in a sense, holding back humanity from regrouping once again, by being suspicious of everyone. As the book (and movie) progress the boy starts to become wary of this worldview, especially after they have some food they found that they could share with fellow travelers, but the man still treats everyone with suspicion and sometimes with downright malice, often for no reason. Sure, the boy is young and obviously sees the world in a less cynical manner, but maybe that is what the world, or THIS world needed. And it isn't until the very end when the Father (man) passes away, that barrier falls and meets up with a kindly new family, opening himself up in a way his Father wouldn't allow when he was alive. It took the Father dying, the passing of the old world so to speak for something maybe, possibly to be reborn. But who knows, after this whole trip if there is anything else besides death, but thats beside the point, I think.
That being said, people thought this movie was going to be a disaster. Pushed back a year, with a trailer that it made it look like , I don't know, a zombie apocalypse movie or Mad Max or something like that. I can see why there might have been trouble marketing this movie because its not so much an adventure really-although I guess you could say it sort of is. How do you market this movie outside of the people who have already read the book? People are certainly going to be put off by it, besides the whole father-son trying to survive aspect of it. But, in the end, it is a really faithful adaptation of the book. I truly wonder how it plays to people who haven't seen it? Parts of it are like a horror movie, certain parts seem like they would be worse because of the anticipation of what you know whats coming. Basically, its the world's most bleak road movie, as the father-son push through this wasteland after an unnamed disaster occurred which basically has brought, well, the end of the world. People are trying to survive, they have resorted to cannibalism-its as bleak as all get out. I think the movie does a good job of capturing that. The book is episodic in nature as it follows the two leads on their journey "south" or "the coast"-where they dream that things will somehow be better-but probably won't. Viggo Mortensen and Kodi Smit-McPhee have the weight of the whole movie on them and they do an admirable job of portraying a father-son relationship in the most extreme circumstances possible. (An odd sidenote: there are only two leads, obviously, but its crazy how stacked the filmmakers have cast the other characters they encounter: Michael K.Williams, Robert Duvall, Guy Pearce, and Charlize Theron-all show up). Its odd, since it is all so gray and sad, but the visuals are actually pretty amazing to see, it "looks great" in the saddest sort of way. It makes me want to check out John Hillcoat's The Proposition (Also, I forget if this was in the book or not, but the Earth is literally dying so trees just randomly crack and fall apart, and the movie is punctuated with that sound-like the death rattle of the Earth-its kind of eerie.) In the end, while seeming sort of aimless and bleak, it does what it sets out to do, and is one of the more faithful adaptations of any book I can remember. There seem to be only a few filmmakers who could adapt a Cormac McCarthy book with any degree of success (few should try-please don't even try to make a Blood Meridian movie) but it works, in an odd way, it works, to make a really sad, sometimes hard-to-watch movie.
Hillcoat actually tries to flesh out the relationship with The Father and His Wife (Woman, The Mother) with flashbacks, I actually think that works for the adaptation. What doesn't is definitely the narration by Mortensen that is scattered throughout the film, sort of randomly. It seems like something that was added by some producer in post-production and seems somewhat out-of-place in that is overexplains things too much.