One interesting aspect of the film is that it has a decidedly theatrical feel, as though it were a filmed version of a play. Sometimes this is slightly awkward - at the beginning of the movie especially. The timing is sometimes a bit off, which makes a scene feel like a scene - as though the characters were frozen and waiting until the camera came and they were brought to life. I think this subtly underscores their penchant for drama, and desire to be exciting, in a subtle sort of way, but it does take some getting used to.
And while it may seem like a melodramatic movie, I think it's actually somewhat reserved in comparison towards the book - and more heartfelt. Because the book is pretty much unbridled angst, and I think honoring that would lead to a slightly ridiculous movie. I think that while the book's focus is the end of idealism, shattered illusions, etc, the movies is actually rather about the relationship between this married couple, and it does a good job with it.
A worthy film. Not Oscar worthy, I'd agree, and it wouldn't have made my Best of 2008 list, but it was a fine film nonetheless. Incidentally, I have since then seen all of the contenders I mentioned not having gotten to yet at the time of making that list - Man on a Wire, My Winnipeg, Milk, and Let the Right One In (which goes to show what a pitiful job I'm doing updating this blog, because I didn't post about ANY of them), and I think the list still stands. I might - might - swap in My Winnipeg, which I really liked (I'd probably demote Mamma Mia! if I had to pick one), but the rest, nah. Let the Right One In was charming and had really awesome special effects, but I wasn't that blown away. Both Milk and Man on a Wire I thought were way overrated - though I probably would have been more impressed by Man on a Wire if I weren't already familiar with the story. Milk I thought was timely and well acted but also rather annoyingly over-determined, which I've pretty much come to expect from Gus van Sant. So hey, good job, me.