04 June 2009

Revolutionary Road

Soon after seeing the previews for the movie, I read the book, and quite liked it. I then decided to hold off on seeing the movie, thinking I would be more critical of it, having just read it. Nonetheless, having seen the previews before reading produced this curious effect whereby I actually pictured the protagonists as Kate and Leo. So in a sense, I was perfectly primed to watch the movie. And I must say - it was better than I expected, by far. And is just as good as the book, actually, or very nearly so. The cuts for length are mostly intelligently selected, the visualization of the text is well done, and the acting is pretty much just right. In other words - it's an extremely successful adaptation. My only reservation is the ending, which feels a bit rushed, but actually, I wasn't so crazy about the ending of the book either, and I think in some ways it's actually more poignant in the movie. Then again, I wonder if my favorably opinion from the movie is dependent upon my familiarity with the book - it's possible that it's a bit too rushed, and doesn't delve into the emotional lives of the characters (which is, after all, the point) as well as I think, it's just that having read it, I can fill it in? 

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. 

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